Defending Commonwealth Games 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke champion Leisel Jones has again got the treble in her crosshairs, as she polishes her preparation at the Australian Swim Team staging camp, in Kuala Lumpur.
The rejuvenated 25-year-old, fresh from taking a swimming sabbatical in 2009, does not have to look far for challengers to her breaststroke throne, with Commonwealth record holder and training partner Sarah Katsoulis and Pan Pacs silver medallist Leiston Pickett, part of the touring Australian squad.
Jones will also have to monitor emerging Australian talent Sarah Marshall in her pet event the 100m breaststroke, after the 18-year-old swam a time in the B final at Pan Pacs that would have seen her dead-heat with Katsoulis for bronze in the final.
“I definitely prefer having such world class talent in my own squad and country,” said Jones.
“Getting the opportunity to swim against them (Katsoulis, Pickett and Marshall) regularly allows me to better understand how they race and better develop my racing plan.”
The Rohan Taylor coached aquatic queen, who has also never been beaten at a Commonwealth Games in the 100m and 200m breaststroke, is set to recapture the form that saw her break her last long course world record at the Melbourne Games, in 2006.
“Yeah, the body and mind are both feeling really good. Having 2009 off international competition has allowed me to really freshen up not only physically, but more importantly, mentally.”
“I am looking forward to getting to India and racing at my third Commonwealth Games. Outside of the Olympics the Commonwealth’s would have to be my favourite swim meet.”
The experience rich Jones, who made her international multi-sport debut at the Sydney Olympics at the tender age of 15, is also relishing the responsibility of mentoring the 16-strong band of teenagers on tour.
On such teenage-tyro Jones will be keeping a close eye on is Australia’s youngest team member Yolane Kukla, who is competing at her first multi-sport Games.
The Brisbane school girl, who shot to swimming stardom after winning the 50m freestyle and butterfly double at the Australian Championships in March, turns 15 tomorrow and is excited at the prospect of visiting India for the first time.
“I think it’s going to be pretty cool going over there, it’s not long now,” said Kukla.
“My family is coming over to watch which is going to make it an even more special experience for me.”
Jones, Kukla and the rest of the Australian swim team bound for the sub-continent will leave Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, where they will spend four days in the athletes’ village, ahead of the first heats session on Monday morning.
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