The unassuming 15-year-old who smashed Leisel Jones’ breaststroke record

The unassuming 15-year-old who smashed Leisel Jones’ breaststroke record Liesel Jones readying for her 100m breaststroke heat at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Sienna Toohey was barely three years old when Leisel Jones retired from swimming in 2012. The 15-year-old from Albury has no first-hand memories of the Australian champion’s slew of Olympics, world championships and Commonwealth Games gold medals.

She was not yet alive when Jones won gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke at Beijing 2008, and when she notably did not at Athens 2004.

And she definitely had no idea about Sydney 2000, when a 15-year-old Jones claimed silver at her home Olympics and let the world know that the girl from Katherine was quite a good swimmer.

A lot has changed in the 24 years since. Iraq was invaded. The iPhone was invented. COVID-19 spread around the world.

One thing that’s remained the same was the 15 years Australian age-group record Jones set in that 2000 final at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre. Until Tuesday night, when Toohey replaced it with her own.

Toohey’s 1:07.01 in the women’s 100m breaststroke final almost flew under the radar at the Australian Olympic trials in Brisbane.

In the context of the Paris Games, it got her third place in a race for which no swimmer went under the qualifying time.

But it also threw forward to Los Angeles 2028, and the tantalising prospect of what a 19-year-old Toohey could achieve. The quietly spoken school student flew to an early lead before ultimately touching behind Jenna Strauch (1:06.90) and Ella Ramsay (1:06.94).

It lopped 0.71 seconds off her previous personal best of 1:07.72, set at the Australian age championships in April, and smashed Jones’s 24-year-old age record of 1:07.49 by 0.23 seconds.

“That was my goal for this race,” Toohey said. “I didn’t care what I had come, I just knew I wanted to go after the record.

“I was born [almost] after she [Jones] had stopped swimming, but I’ve watched some of her races from before. But I’ve never met her.

“I am so excited. It’s honestly just surreal, and just lost for words. I kind of just lost what I was feeling; was just swimming. I didn’t really know what was happening. I knew that I was going fast, but I didn’t know I was going that fast.”

Incredibly, and in a sign of swimming’s ever-accelerating times, her swim on Tuesday would have beaten America’s Megan Quann (1:07.05) to the Sydney 2000 gold.

Toohey’s guile in the pool is offset by unassuming innocence on dry land. In everyday life, she goes to school and she swims. That’s the long and short of it.

“It’s basically my whole life, swimming,” she said. “The school’s very supportive of my swimming, and does everything to make sure that I am doing very well with my swimming but also staying on top of school, which is good.”

The result means these Olympics, at least, appear unreachable. But the surprise retirement of Chelsea Hodges last month has only underscored Australia’s relative lack of immediate breaststroke depth.

And, at the risk of burdening young talent with external pressure, the seeds of Toohey’s career to date hint at longevity - and a Jones-worthy collection of medals.

“A hundred per cent,” she said. “This was a good first experience for me – first trials where I made a final. That was really, really cool.”

2024 Australian swimming trials; exclusive, live and free on Channel Nine and 9Now from Monday June 10. Finals start at 7.30pm AEST each night.

Sports news, results and expert commentary.Sign up for our Sport newsletter.

  • https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/the-unassuming-15-year-old-who-smashed-leisel-jones-breaststroke-record/ar-BB1o2mln?ocid=00000000

Related

'Missing' federal money can fund pay rise, nurses say

'Missing' federal money can fund pay rise, nurses say

News
Broccoli's Anti-Cancer Compound Could Have a Whole Other Health Benefit

Broccoli's Anti-Cancer Compound Could Have a Whole Other Health Benefit

News
Zelensky orders purge of Ukraine’s state guard in wake of alleged assassination plots

Zelensky orders purge of Ukraine’s state guard in wake of alleged assassination plots

News
Rising cost of living leaving many Canberra small businesses in a precarious position

Rising cost of living leaving many Canberra small businesses in a precarious position

News
All Blacks star says ‘I put a Super Rugby title above a World Cup’ after Blues end 21-year trophy drought

All Blacks star says ‘I put a Super Rugby title above a World Cup’ after Blues end 21-year trophy drought

News
21 of Australia’s prettiest country cottages

21 of Australia’s prettiest country cottages

News
Grand Mural of Caitlin Foord unveiled in Wollongong

Grand Mural of Caitlin Foord unveiled in Wollongong

News
The 20 best places to visit in Croatia that aren’t Dubrovnik

The 20 best places to visit in Croatia that aren’t Dubrovnik

News