LONDON (Reuters) - Australia’s Chef de Mission Nick Green on Wednesday launched a scathing attack on what he described as ‘disgraceful’ media reports about the fitness of Olympic champion swimmer Leisel Jones.
The former Olympic champion rower also responded to reports of another boycott threat from an Australian runner by saying it was time athletes got their ‘heads down and bums up’ for their final preparations for the Games.
Green opened his daily news conference by responding to Australian media reports that suggested 26-year-old Jones, the defending 100 metres breaststroke champion, was overweight and only in London for a holiday.
”I think they’re disgraceful, to be honest,“ he said. ”I am very disappointed with the articles and I think they’re unfair on Leisel and the work she’s done for this country at this level.
”She’s a triple Olympic gold medallist, the winner of eight medals for this country and I think she deserves a lot more respect than she was given.
”I thinks it’s just unfair that she’s been targeted this way on the eve of what is, for her, a historic competition, the only female swimmer ever to go to four Games.
“This is the golden opportunity for athletes and they prepare for four years for it. Athletes don’t go for the Olympics for a holiday, they just don‘t.”
Green then rounded on reported comments from sprinter Josh Ross, who was quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald as saying he may pull out of the 4x100m relay because he was unhappy at not being nominated for the individual event.
“It is an absolute honour to represent this country at the Games and if athletes don’t feel they want that honour, I’ll have that conversation with them,” he said.
“My suggestion is to get into the village, get your head down and bum up and get on with your job, which is to compete for this country.”
Ross’s complaint had echoes of the long-running saga involving 400m runner John Steffensen, who threatened to pull out of the relay team when he was not nominated for the individual event.
Steffensen, who also levelled accusations of racism at Athletics Australia, was livid when Steve Solomon was nominated in the individual 400m despite not achieving the ‘A’ qualifying standard.
“Every athlete has the right of appeal over selection issues and in the case of Josh Ross there was no appeal lodged, and I‘m not sure why he’s bringing it up on the eve on competition,” Green added.
”It’s time for the athletes to knuckle down and get on with the job. I have 410 athletes to look after and these two gentlemen are two of them.
“I have an obligation to the other 408 of them to make sure they are not distracted by other things.”
Editing by Sonya Hepinstall