SWIMMING: American Rebecca Soni has declared defending Olympic 100 metre breaststroke champion Leisel Jones the number one threat to her four year world dominance, despite the Australian’s lowly ranking coming into the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Soni has won the 100m breaststroke at both world championships contested since Jones beat her into the silver in Beijing four years ago and although she has elected not to follow the results of her rivals leading into London she knows Jones record speaks for itself.
The American, who said she knew nothing of the controversy in the Australian media surrounding Jones’ fitness entering these Olympic Games, said Jones was still the swimmer to beat.
“She’s still the top in my book, even if I beat her last time round (at the world championships), she beat me in the 100 (in Beijing),” Soni said. “I’m really excited to race with Leisel.”
Soni, who won the 200m breaststroke in Beijing, upsetting Jones in the process, said she rarely eyed the rankings heading into a major meet.
“I don’t particularly keep track of other swimmers across the world and that’s mostly because I don’t need to be concerned with it.
“I’d rather just show up on race day and give it my best shot but I know Leisel’s always a great competitor and I’m really excited to just go through the whole process with her one more time.
“She’s a very sweet girl, very fun to have behind the blocks with me.”
Jones labelled Soni “one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever seen” at the Australian Team press conference earlier in the week and when she was told of Jones’ comments Soni was visibly moved.
“It’s such an honour (to hear that),” Soni said.
“That’s how I looked up to her four years ago and to hear her say that about me is really what sports is all about, it’s not just one person that’s on top of it but the camaraderie between athletes and countries and I definitely have the most respect for her.”
The heats and semi finals of the women’s 100m breaststroke are on Sunday, with the final on Monday night 30 July.
Dave Lyall in London