Jade Jones hungry to make ‘sporting history’ and claim third Olympic gold
The prospect of pulling off “mission impossible” and becoming the first taekwondo athlete in history to win three Olympic gold medals has spurred Jade Jones to shrug off the painful memories of Tokyo and plot another ascent to the top of her sport.
Right back to the aftermath of her improbable first Olympic title as a teenager at London 2012, Jones has always been honest about her struggle to find the motivation to submit to the gruelling process of repeating her success through another Olympic cycle.
But one year from the opening of the Paris Olympics finds the 30-year-old Jones full of reasons to breathe new life into her taekwondo career, from making history to erasing an uncomfortable chapter in the Japanese capital that saw her surrender her title at the last-16 stage.
“The hunger is fully back with me,” Jones told the PA news agency. “Tokyo didn’t go well and I’ve since realised that my mind just wasn’t right but I quickly realised I didn’t want to leave my career like that – I wanted another shot at making sporting history.”
The Welsh star’s shock loss to Refugee Team competitor Kimia Alizadeh left the Flint athlete close to tears and threatened to prove her swansong on the Olympic stage, as she openly admitted to experiencing anxiety and not enjoying a Games sanitised by small crowds and lingering lockdown regulations.
“There was so much expectation on me in the build-up to Tokyo because everyone expected me to go out there and get the third gold, and I went to Tokyo feeling that I had everything to lose,” added Jones.
“Everything was pressure. There was pressure on me as the athlete and there was all the pandemic stuff that meant I didn’t enjoy it.
“I’d grown so used to being cheered on in my big competitions by friends and family, and to have no spectators there just made it a really strange experience. The whole thing just made it feel like it wasn’t happening for me out there, and it wasn’t meant to be.”
Jones returned home to inevitable questions about her future and took an extended break from competition, returning to take bronze at the 2022 World Championships in Guadalajara.
After falling in the quarter-finals of the 2023 World Championships to Taipei’s Lo Chia-ling in Baku in May, Jones rebounded the following month, underscoring her commitment to the Paris process by winning her second European Games gold medal in Krakow.
It was a timely triumph for Jones, who must see off her domestic rival, the three-time world bronze medallist Aaliyah Powell, to secure the solitary -57kg squad on Great Britain’s Olympic team, before she can even think about overcoming the weight of her sport’s history.
A number of athletes have won two Olympic gold medals, but even the seemingly invincible American Steven Lopez fell short of an historic third in Beijing in 2008, when he had to settle for bronze after a controversial judging call in his semi-final against Italy’s Mauro Sarmiento.
“No-one has won three Olympic gold medals in taekwondo,” added Jones. “It’s been mission impossible so far, and that’s why no-one has managed to do it.
“But I believe I can be the person to do it and I will leave everything out there. Now that I’m older and after what happened in Tokyo, it’s not expected of me so much. People are starting to write me off. Deep down that gives me more hunger because I feel like I have something to prove again.”
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