Setting the standard for British taekwondo
On the third day of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, Jade Jones became the first ever British Youth Olympic champion. The 17-year-old from Wales dominated Thanh Thao Nguyen (VIE) in the 55kg category final, winning 9-6. “You've always got a little bit of nerves at the back of your head but I was confident,” said Jones afterwards. “I knew I could win on my day but anything can happen. It's so close, but it's just amazing.”
After Singapore her attention turned to London 2012. “I've had the experience here so I know what it's going to be like,” she said before the Games. “I've just got to keep on winning the competitions and hopefully see how it goes. It's amazing, it's an Olympic set-up here so I'm now excited for London 2012.”
In the two years leading up to her home games Jones had a string of good results, taking a silver medal in the 57kg category at the 2011 World Championships in Gyengiu (KOR). She came agonisingly close to gold, only losing to Hou Yuzhuo (CHN) after the final went into sudden death.
On 9 August 2012 in the arena at the Excel, Jones won round after round in the 57kg category with the crowd cheering her on. She easily beat Dragana Zaninovic (SRB) in the round of 16, then took down Mayu Hamada (JPN) in the quarter-final and Tseng Li-Cheng (TPE) in the semi-final thanks to her strong technique and her speciality kick to the head.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
In the final Jones once again came up against Hou Yuzhou, but this time she prevailed 9-6 to become Olympic champion. “Before I came out I was thinking that she took my World Championship final. That killed me for ages,” Jones said. “So I wasn’t going to let her beat me here in front of a home crowd. I came here to get the gold.”
Comparing her victories in Singapore and London, Jones explained, “The format was the same but obviously it’s a home crowd here and it’s bigger. Taekwondo is a low-key sport so to have this level of support is overwhelming. To be the first British athlete to win an Olympic gold (in taekwondo) is just amazing - I can’t explain it.”
Looking back on her journey, she added: “I had to watch all my mates going out while I was training and I had to move away from my family at 17 which was hard. But after months of blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the early morning starts, the gold medal makes it all worth it.”
In 2013, just three years after being crowned a YOG champion, Jones was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for services to her sport.