Jade Jones: Winning Olympics is best feeling in the world – I think I’m addicted to it

Jade Jones: Winning Olympics is best feeling in the world – I think I’m addicted to it

Making history is something Jade Jones is used to doing. In 2012 she became the first British athlete to win Olympic taekwondo gold and, aged just 19, was the youngest of Team GB’s gold medallists.

In 2016 she followed it up with a gold in Rio, then a World title in 2019.

This summer, she was aiming to become the first athlete in her sport to claim three Olympic golds. She can still achieve the feat, with the Games in 2021, but the gap between what 2020 promised and what it has delivered has taken some adjusting to.

“I was supposed to be making history in a months’ time,” Jones reflects on Sky Sports Check In. “It’s kind of been a bit of a rollercoaster.”

Like many athletes in the same position, Jones found it easier to process once the IOC had announced the postponement, having initially feared the Games would be outright cancelled. The change of plans at the end of the four-year cycle has still challenged her psychologically.

“At first, I didn’t really think it would affect me,” says Jones. “I thought I was quite mentally strong but I think it did, and has, affected me mentally.

“Being an athlete, your whole life revolves around that one goal and you know exactly when it is. You’ve got to eat right, sleep right, do this amount of training. Your whole life, the whole day, the whole year is gearing up to that one moment.

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“So, when there’s no moment at the end and you didn’t know when the next thing was going to be, it kind of felt like, I don’t know, like how retiring would feel.”

Despite the initial disappointment though, Jones is now seeing the postponement as a positive as she manages a knee injury which, this close to the Games, could have spelled disaster.

“I’m kind of seeing it as maybe someone was watching over me or something. I’ve never had an injury in all my life.

“It was kind of because of the lockdown that I’m still injured, with no physios, no nutritionist, nobody to help us. I can take the time now to get healed up properly and be stronger and better than ever.”

When lockdown hit Jade and her housemate, fellow Team GB taekwondo athlete Bianca Walkden, kitted out their garage so they could continue their training. Aaron Cooke, Walkden’s boyfriend who also competes for Great Britain on the mat, moved in too so they could maintain the intensity of their training.

“It was quite fun to start with, we had a really good set up,” says Jones. “We trained hard, still training twice a day. I think we definitely did the best out of a bad situation.”

The National Taekwondo Centre, where all three train, has now reopened with strict safety precautions in place. Training groups are limited to households but despite no variation in opponents, it’s been a challenge to adapt and step up the intensity again.

“When we came back to the National Centre it’s a different level and a different pace. It was really hard when the coach was there to push us!”, says Jones. “To be honest, I think the coach was quite impressed with how good of shape we were in though, I think he thought we were just going the videos for Instagram!”

For once, Instagram and reality are aligned, and Jones remains focused and motivated despite not being sure when she’ll compete next. The Grand Prix final is slated for November, with European qualifiers to contend with too, although both remain subject to change. There is also the question of whether the delay means that Tokyo will be Jones’ last Olympics, having previously refused to rule out 2024.

“I’ve always gone just one competition at a time so I can put my all into and not think about what’s going to happen after,” Jones explains. “But now it’s only three years after the next one so, who knows? I don’t know.

“I do want to leave a legacy and do something no one has ever done because I believe I can, and I don’t want to waste that chance.

“Winning the Olympics is the best feeling in the world. I think I’m addicted to that feeling and I want to keep getting that feeling for as long as possible.”

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