This interview first appeared just after the London Olympics. Rio coming very soon, thought a revisit might be in order!
Jade Jones, Welsh athlete, and Britain’s first ever Taekwondo gold medal winner! Watching the final, Jade Jones and Hou Yuzhuo, was edge of the seat stuff worthy of a Hollywood film (minus the Crane kick and Mr Miyagi). As part of our series on Team GB we were keen to speak to Jade about how it felt to be a gold medallist and who inspires her.
People often see martial arts training as violent, and miss the discipline aspect of it. What’s your opinion on that and what effect did Taekwondo training have on you?
It’s one of the most disciplined sports – you’re constantly bowing, listening to your coach etc. When I first got into Taekwondo I started to do better in school, better in all sorts of things. It is fighting but it’s just a sport and you’re only doing it there. You’re putting the work into something good.
Did you ever consider doing a different Martial Art?
No, it was just by chance that it was Taekwondo, but I think this is the one that suits me more than any other.
When I did Taekwondo years ago we had Breaking blocks, did you do them as well?
When I first started, yes, because I did ITF style first but then in the Olympic style it’s all about the sport – the kicks, the fighting, the patterns and all of the formal stuff.
What’s your training regime like? Is it purely Taekwondo, or do you hit the gym too?
We do weights twice a week, agility once a week – there are all sorts of different phases. Within general phases it’s all about getting strong and powerful so we’ll do hard runs in the afternoon and in the morning it’s all Taekwondo.
I read that Kelly Holmes had some great advice for you, and you’ve looked to her for inspiration. Who else inspires you?
My coach Paul Green is a proper legend, everyone knows him as a Taekwondo legend. He was going into the Olympics with a high chance of getting gold but he got injured at the last second, so he’s got his gold through me! He trained me really hard and his attitude is amazing so I look up to him a lot.
Has it sunk in yet that you are the first ever British Taekwondo Gold Medallist?
No, I don’t think it ever will to be honest! When you see people on the telly with Olympic gold medals, it doesn’t feel like you have the same thing. It’s weird!
When you managed to get a headkick in on Tseng Li-Cheng, did it dawn on you then that you just did that to the number 1 seed and that anything was possible?
Yeah! (laughs). She’s an amazing player and I look up to her a lot, but I do love kicks to the head… so I just did what I do, and it worked (laughs)
The Final. It was an incredible bout to watch, You looked a bit nervy at the start, then you had us worried when your left leg got hurt a couple of times in the second round. What happened there?
It was from the previous fights – I’d kicked the shins a few times and I had to have a needle before the third round to numb it because I could hardly walk, but it was fine after that. In the final she kept lifting her leg and I kept catching it, but she was deducted a point for that so it was alright (laughs)
In that final match at what point did you think ‘I’m going to win this’, or did it not occur to you until the end?
Just from the start of the final I thought ‘ah mate, I could actually be the Olympic champion!’ but in Taekwondo you can get kicked in the head in the last few seconds… especially in Great Britain when we also seem to get so close but then lose. I didn’t think I was always going to win until the buzzer went and I thought ‘I’ve finally done it!’
You’ve had a couple of weeks away in Ibiza and Spain, what’s next for you?
I’ve got the World Championships next year in June. I’m training but I’m not back fully because I’m still doing media stuff. I have a couple of competitions next year so I’ll just take it from there, see what happens.
Outside of Taekwondo, what do you do to relax… if you get any time?
(laughs) I like to go and see my family, but there’s not much time you get! I just chill with my friends and try to do normal things.
You’re a Man United fan – did you see the Newcastle game?
Ahh no, I missed that one!
I was going to ask you about the Tom Cleverley goal – do you think it was a cross, or a shot on goal?
The one from really far back?
Yeah, I’m not sure if he knew if it was a cross or not!
I did see that. It looked like an amazing goal but I’m not sure if he did it on purpose… actually no – he definitely did it on purpose! (laughs)
We also saw you on the Jonathan Ross show – how was that?
That was amazing! It was before the Olympics so it was great publicity for me going into the games. It was a lot of fun, getting to kick Jonathan Ross. I wasn’t allowed to kick him in the head though so I had to go a bit soft (laughs)
What sort of advice do you have for young people going into Taekwondo? Is it for everyone?
Definitely, get involved! Whether it’s Taekwondo or any sport, it’s a good path to go down. It’ll keep you looking after yourself and it’s a great sport – it’s fun, it’s explosive and great to watch. So yes, get into Taekwondo and give it a try!
– Photo by Yolanda Kingdon. Thanks to Melanie Halling at Definitive