Australian national swimmer dallies with Buddhism

AAP, November 11, 2004

Sydney, Australia -- LEISEL JONES is thinking of becoming a Buddhist. Jones, 19, has done some soul-searching since the Athens Olympics with the help of the Dalai Lama.

She's read the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's book The Art of Happiness since the Games and is clearly putting some of it into practice.

The teenager who looked so glum on the medal dais after winning minor medals in her 100 and 200metres breaststroke events in Greece is beaming.

So much so the Olympic medley relay gold medallist is tossing up whether to become a Buddhist herself ? although she gets headaches from burning incense and isn't into meditating yet.

"I just like their beliefs and the way they teach patience and things like that," Jones said yesterday.

"It's sort of an option to think about. I'll look into it to see what sort of catches there are.

"I sort of think up all these things. I don't follow through with them."

In the three months since the Olympics, the Queenslander has made some big changes.

She's already changed the colour of her hair three times from red to blonde to "very white blonde".

And this week she announced a split with her coach of six years, Ken Wood, to begin training with Stephan Widmer in Brisbane.

Widmer coached Libby Lenton to a world 100m freestyle record this year.

"This is my new phase on to Beijing. I'm re-inventing myself as an adult athlete," Jones said. "I'm quite happy with it."

While Jones has equated her split from her childhood coach as coinciding with her transition into adulthood, her mother Rosemary will move house as well.

"She cooks my dinner," Jones joked.

Jones and Lenton will be back in action at the Qantas Skins in Sydney, starting on Sunday week.