by Olly Allen
With just over five months to go until the 2020 Olympics begin in Tokyo, Gair Rhydd Sport is launching it’s ‘Olympic Spotlight’ series, in which we profile some of the Welsh athletes hoping to make an impression as part of Team GB in the summer. In 2016, Rio was a record-breaking year for competitors from Wales, as they won more medals than ever before – four gold and six silver.
We start this series with one of those gold medal winners, taekwondo champion Jade Jones. From Flint, North Wales, Jones was introduced to the sport at the age of eight by her grandad who was keen to toughen her up.
Her talent was clear from an early age, as she left school at 16 to take up taekwondo full-time. In 2010, she won gold at the Youth Olympics and silver at the World Taekwondo Junior Championships before being named BBC Wales Junior Sportswoman of the Year.
Just two years later, Jones became a household name by becoming Olympic champion in the -57kg category at London 2012 at the age of only 19. She beat twice world champion China’s Yuzhuo Hou in the final, having beaten top seed Li-Cheng Tseng of Chinese Taipei in the semi-finals. In the process, she became just the third Welsh woman in history to win Olympic gold. The youngster’s sheer joy as she ran around the ExCeL Arena with a British flag in one hand and a Welsh flag in the other was one of the most iconic images of the games.
Jones admitted that she went off the boil a little in the next couple of years as she lost attention and focus due to her new-found fame. However, she soon got back to her best and triumphed once again in Rio in 2016. A double Olympic champion at 23 years old, she beat Spaniard Eva Calvo Gomez in the final thanks to two head kicks in the third round, fitting of her nickname ‘The Headhunter’.
It means that in Tokyo, Jones is aiming to become the first British woman to win three Olympic titles in succession.
Speaking to Sky Sports earlier this month, Jones said: “To still only be 26 and going for my third Olympic gold with the chance to make history is just really exciting.
“I still feel like I have got so much to learn and so much I can improve from now until the Olympics. I am really excited to see what place I can be in.
“I believe I can win in Tokyo and make history. It’s just getting there now and doing it on the day. Hopefully, it happens.”
Jones’s preparation for the summer has been good, and last year she won the World Taekwondo Championships for the first time in her career in Manchester. She was also recently awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list. A damehood may await if glory and history is achieved this summer.