Taekwondo's Jade Jones relishing record-breaking Tokyo medal prospects

Sportsbeat
·5-min read
Jade Jones is aiming for a third Olympic gold in Tokyo (Picture: Peter Cziborra / Reuters)
Jade Jones is aiming for a third Olympic gold in Tokyo (Picture: Peter Cziborra / Reuters)

Jade Jones is proud as punch that taekwondo is one of the few Olympic sports in Britain that walks the walk on diversity at elite level, writes Tom Harle.

A third of Team GB's Rio 2016 medallists went to private schools and 16 of 23 sports did not field a black or ethnic minority athlete.

Double Olympic champion Jones was born on a council estate in North Wales and fellow fighter Lauren Williams paid off her parents' mortgage after winning her first Grand Slam.

Taekwondo talent identification programmes like Fighting Chance have a great record in hard-to-reach communities and Jones wants it shouted from the rooftops.

"As a team, we've come from all kinds of different backgrounds and places," said the 28-year-old.

"We're a family. We're in it together and we struggle together, train together and win together.

"Certain sports don't take a lot of money to do and we're one of them.

"To start taekwondo you can just do kicks in the air, you don't need anything to start off and practice and it's the same with boxing.

"It's an amazing sport for people who aren't well off and to still make it to the top.

"I come from a council estate and it's amazing to see those kinds of stories, to see that no matter what background you've come from, you can make it.

"I always try to pick up the Welsh flag as well as the British flag, because I'm proud to be Welsh and where I came from."

Wales is where she started, but it's where Jones is going that has captured the public's imagination: a tilt at an historic third Olympic gold.

The -57kg world No.1 would be the first taekwondo athlete to take three Olympic titles and become the first British woman to win three golds at as many successive Games.

"We have to be all about the process, but it's hard not to think that if I were to win this one, it's a different kind of history," she said.

"It almost seems written out for me sometimes, one piece of history after another. It's not just going to happen and be given to me, but I do think about it.

"The second Olympic gold was legend status, but this one, I'd just be happy for the rest of my life. I could just put my feet up and drink cocktails for the rest of my life!"

Jones openly admits she expected to retire after Tokyo but the prospect of a shorter, three-year run-up to Paris 2024 means she is even dreaming of a fourth triumph.

First on her list is travelling to Vietnam, Thailand and Bali once COVID allows, but coach Martin Stamper appears to have convinced Jones that another Olympic cycle comes next.

No athlete in a combat sport has ever won four gold medals, and Jones could leapfrog three-time boxing champions Laszlo Papp, Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon into immortality.

"I was thinking this would be the last Olympics, but Martin said that by the time we finish, it will only be two years to go until the next one!" she said.

"If I won in Tokyo, I'll have so many points already I'll only need a few more to qualify for Paris.

"But there are lots of different opportunities, I'm really interested in nutrition and psychology and I love the TV work I've done, so I'll see where it all takes me."

Jones's third Olympics is going to be very different to the first two - for one, she won't be joined by 'Team Crazy.'

Jones is even dreaming of a fourth triumph at Paris 2024
Jones is even dreaming of a fourth triumph at Paris 2024

That's her name for the ten-strong family group who watch her every fight and screamed in support at London 2012, Rio 2016, and even the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore.

Jones went straight over to them after winning her semi-final in Rio, and it seems an absence of British fans in Japan this summer will hit her hard.

"I'll miss all of them to be honest," she said.

"I'm sure I'll be able to get them on FaceTime, but it will be sad not to have them, I like knowing that they're there and I can always hear them.

"It's gutting because we'd planned to do a street go-kart tour of Tokyo, all dressed up as Super Mario. We'll have to do that another time!"

Heavyweight world champion Bianca Walkden isn't family for Jones but she’s as close as it gets, with the pair sharing digs and now inseparable after more than a decade in their sport.

Jones's final in Tokyo is set for 25th July and Walkden's on the 27th. With athletes asked to leave the city two days after the end of their competition, it will be a close run thing as to whether the pair can share in each other's triumph or disaster.

"Bianca has won everything else so to tick that gold off together would be amazing," said Jones.

"I definitely know that she can. It will just be about doing it on the day and hope we get the gold medal at the end of our journeys. It would just be ace.

"We'll have to rush home after and do our celebrating on the plane back."

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