From the moment a 14-year old Leisel Jones OAM qualified for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, we watched her grow before our eyes to become arguably Australia’s most successful female swimmer.
Her career came to a close following her fourth and final Olympic Games at London 2012, as ‘Lethal’ Leisel left swimming with a staggering 21 gold (including three Olympic gold), 15 silver and six bronze medals across major championships. She twice broke the 100m and 200m breaststroke world records.
On Australian sport’s night of nights, Leisel Jones OAM will be granted what she describes as “an amazing privilege”. And whilst all Australians shared in the success of her career, she believes this latest achievement will mean most to the one person who has been there every step of the way – her mother.
Rosemary Eastaughffe will be by Leisel’s side on Wednesday 21st October, 2015 to witness her daughter be bestowed the nation’s highest sporting honour at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner.
Presented by Etihad Airways, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Gala Dinner is the largest gathering of Australian sporting greats in the one room for the one night each year, in celebration of Australia’s finest.
2015 will mark the 31st edition of this event, with Leisel Jones OAM and a further seven Australian sporting icons, from on and off the field, to be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
The three-time Olympic gold medallist said she is thankful to be sharing the moment with her loving mother.
“When you win a gold medal, you only share it with the coach you’ve been working with, but the Hall of Fame takes into account your whole career, and that’s something everyone has a hand in,” the 30-year-old said.
“Throughout my career, my mum has always been there and has always supported me, before I even thought I was going to be a swimmer.”
“It [the Induction] is probably a little bit more special than winning gold because it is a lasting legacy that you leave, and you’re among amazing, incredible athletes, so that will be something really special for my mum.”
Gold is the colour Jones is most synonymous with, yet it persisted to elude her on the world’s greatest stage until her third Olympic Games.
It was not until Beijing 2008 and the 100m breaststroke final that she would break through for her maiden Olympic triumph, in a moment the four-time Olympian considers the defining point in her career.
“I don’t really remember a lot about the race, but I just know the sheer amount of work that went into achieving that one small moment in life,” said Jones.
“It was just a sliver in time, and it took eight years of really pure hard work.”
“I think that’s the moment where everything I had worked for really came true. All I wanted was Olympic gold, that was all I wanted out of my career, and I finally achieved it.”
Leisel Jones OAM will now sit alongside her childhood idol Susie O’Neill OAM – who will welcome Jones to the fold as part of the official Induction presentation – and other greats such as Dawn Fraser AO MBE and Shane Gould MBE, as the 49th swimmer inducted atop the pinnacle of Australian sporting excellence – the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
“It is a gentle reminder of what an amazing career I had,” admitted Jones.
“It is pretty incredible looking back. It was 12 years of really, really hard work.”
“I was so lucky I had the opportunity to do that because so many people don’t get the chance to realise their dreams like that … I am so grateful when I look back on my career, and so glad I realised my dreams.”
“I didn’t give up. I just kept going.”
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame Selection Committee Chairman Rob de Castella AO MBE said Leisel Jones OAM holds a special place in the hearts and minds of all Australians.
“Leisel Jones inspired her nation as one of the greatest female swimmers to ever grace the pool,” de Castella said.
“In the spotlight from a young age, Jones excelled on the world stage with class and an ever-present smile. She is the epitome of good virtue, of sportsmanship and a role model for Australians young and old.”