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Leisel Jones details depression in ‘Body Lengths’

Leisel Jones

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 29: Leisel Jones of Australia reacts after competing in the Women’s 100m Breaststroke heat 4 on Day 2 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 29, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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Retired swimmer Leisel Jones recalled extreme dieting, depression and suicidal thoughts in her new co-written biography, according to excerpts in Australian media.

Jones, 30, won nine Olympic medals, tied for the most by an Australian with Ian Thorpe, and previously talked about her battle with depression. Thorpe also dealt with depression.

Nicknamed “Lethal” Jones, her physical appearance was scrutinized in swim-mad Australia. As was her performance in the pool. The breaststroke phenom who made her first Olympic team at age 14 in 2000 needed five more years before winning her first individual World title and eight more before her first individual Olympic gold.

“I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” Jones said on ABC Australia, despite the mental and physical problems she detailed in her book, “Body Lengths.”

In one excerpt, Jones said she went one year without eating chocolate and that coaches at one of her training groups labeled female athletes fat with a code number after public weigh-ins.

In another, she told a story of contemplating suicide while at a team altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada, Spain, in 2011. From the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age:

I sit down on the bathroom floor with sleeping tablets and plan how I will steal a paring knife from the hotel kitchen to try to kill myself. I will start with my legs, with the big veins in my thighs. Then I will slash at my arms, at my pale white wrists. I shake as I think about it. I imagine the knife and how I will run its blade gently over my skin, scrape it across the smooth skin of my wrist - then go further, do what I need to do.

“I was picturing myself in a body bag leaving Sierra Nevada,” Jones said on Australian TV.

Jones said those thoughts were interrupted by a team sports scientist texting to invite her to breakfast downstairs with Tour de France winner and four-time Olympian Cadel Evans and, two hours later, by a coach knocking on her door.

“It was very hard to write,” Jones said on ABC Australia. “Writing it was quite cathartic. ... I want the stories to have a lesson for other people.”

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