Tokyo 2020 Ones to Watch: Jade Jones

Jade Jones knows exactly what it takes to win Olympic taekwondo gold but that is also why she understands better than anyone just how tough it will be to claim a historic hat-trick of titles in Tokyo.

Five years on from her Rio success, the 28-year-old from Wales will seek to become the first taekwondo athlete ever to win three Olympic gold medals, having been named in the Team GB line-up in the -57kg division.

From a somewhat surprising champion in London, to one of the sport’s dominant fighters four years later, Jones has established herself as the person to beat in Japan.

However in taekwondo, anything can happen, as Lutalo Muhammad found out in Rio when he saw a potential gold medal ripped from his grasp in the final second of his final.

That is why Jones is pleading caution as she bids to make history.

She said: “Nobody is a dead cert, it is going to a tough competition, but I believe I can do it on my day so it’s just about making sure it’s my day.

“I definitely feel the pressure and it’s obviously a pressure I put on myself, going into this third Olympics and thinking I could make history if I win but I’m not stupid.

“I know how tough the other opponents are and it’s just about me going there and doing the best I can and then what will be will be. I’ve kind of tried to lower my expectations.

“We don’t know what it’s going to be like [in Tokyo], if I get my hopes up and think it’s going to be like the other ones then I might be let down. I’ll just go there with an open mind.”

Jones has been quite open about how the postponement of the Games for a year affected her, taking some time to come to terms with the disappointment.

She spent lockdown living with fellow Team GB star Bianca Walkden and her boyfriend Aaron Cook, a three-time European champion in his own right.

Spending time away from her family has not been easy, and she admits that having to compete without them cheering her on will be tough.

She added: “It’s going to be different as I’m used to all my family being there and I’m a big game player, I like the crowd and the energy to get me to that next level but we’re just lucky it’s on.

“I have to take that and the fact that I want to win gold so much, that will be put to the back of my head and now I’m just thinking of bringing that gold home and enjoying it after the Games.

“You think it [winning gold before] would [take the pressure off] but you always want more don’t you, now I’ve got there, I’ve had it in the bag for ages and now I want to win this one.

“Different people have different stories and at least I’ve ticked everything off, but I’ll give it everything I’ve got to get this third gold and then be proud of myself then.”

In 2019 Jones added a world title to her collection, the only major medal missing from her haul up to that point.

In some ways, that success in Manchester has eased the pressure on her, knowing that whatever happens, she will have done it all in the sport.

But when you are an athlete of Jones’ calibre, the drive to keep winning never fades. The hopes is that it will carry her all the way in Tokyo.

“It was a bit different for me the worlds as it had been the one that got away and I really wanted to tick everything off, so it definitely gave me a lot of confidence,” she said.

“It just completed the set, I’ve done everything and if I got nothing else from now at least I’ve managed to complete taekwondo and do all that, everything else now is a bonus.

“I want to win this third gold more than anything but at least I’ve ticked everything off so I can see the rest as a bonus, and it takes a bit of the pressure off for me.”

Sportsbeat 2021