Jade Jones: ‘I’m really good at do or die kind of pressure’

The double Olympic gold athlete speaks to Liz Connor about staying at the top of her sporting game ahead of Tokyo 2020.

Taekwondo champ Jade Jones shot to fame after winning gold at London 2012, before becoming the youngest Brit to ever retain her Olympic title in Rio four years later.

Ruthless, committed and with a mean right foot, the 25-year-old fighter has been dubbed ‘The Headhunter’, thanks to her trademark point-scoring kicks to the head.

Now the Welsh athlete has her sights set on scoring a triple Olympic win at Tokyo 2020, with hopes of becoming the first British woman to achieve three gold medals in three different Olympics.

Between training, we caught up with the rising sports star to talk diet, training and her all-time sporting hero.

How did you originally discover taekwondo?

“I started when I was about eight. I was a bit of a naughty kid, so my granddad decided to get me into martial arts. The first day I tried it, I just fell madly in love with it – I’d cry if I couldn’t get to a session.”

How often do you train?

“I train from Monday to Friday, usually for about five or six hours every day. I’m kicking bags and sparring, but then I also do weights and cardio fitness as well. There’s a lot of variety, which is good for me. I don’t know how runners just constantly run – I’d find that so hard.”

What do you love most about the sport?

“The fact that if you switch off for a second you can get knocked out; the adrenaline buzz of it. It’s fast-paced and there’s no space for error because you’ll lose a fight.”

How painful is it to take a kick?

“Luckily, I’ve never been knocked out, but when you get clocked hard, it does hurt – I’m not going to lie! People think it doesn’t, because we have padding on or a head guard, but that’s not the case.”

You started from a young age, is it a good sport for kids to learn?

“Definitely. Taekwondo is all about being courteous and respectful, so for kids who just want to do it for fun, it teaches you respect and discipline.”

What’s your diet like?

“When we’re getting closer to a competition, it’s really strict. I have to lose six to seven kilos every time I fight. I’m naturally 63kg, so it’s all about eating healthy and cutting down. I can’t afford to eat badly – especially alcohol, which is the most calorific thing.”

You’ve teamed up with Scholl for their latest campaign. How important is it for your feet to be in peak physical condition ahead of a big match?

“It’s really important. I train five or six hours every day and my feet get battered, and they’re often aching. I can’t wait to get in and put my feet up! So it is important to have the right support.”

Who are your sporting heroes?

“I always used to look up to Kelly Holmes growing up, because she struggled a lot with injury and then finally got her gold medal at 34. The fact that she never gave up is always inspirational to me.”

You’ve won gold at the last two Olympic Games, do you feel under pressure to keep winning because you’ve had such an amazing journey so far?

“I already know that, come Tokyo, there’s going to be so much pressure on me. Nobody’s ever got three gold medals in taekwondo, and no British female Olympian has ever achieved three gold medals in three different Olympics as well. Everyone is going to be wondering if I can do it.

“I think it just shows, more than ever, that I’ve got to be a mental machine. I’m really good at the ‘do or die’ kind of pressure, especially when it comes to the Olympics, when I really want to win.”

What does it feel like to win an Olympic gold medal?

“The first one took years to sink in, it didn’t feel real. Even now it still doesn’t until I watch a clip back. You train for years and years of your life, there’s ups, downs and tears – so many different emotions – and then for it all to pay off on that one day, it’s an indescribable feeling.”

With Tokyo 2020 coming up, how are you preparing?

“It’s a long journey, so I’m just trying to mentally and physically get into the best shape possible so that by the time it comes around, I’ll be heads and shoulders above the rest.”

Jones is an ambassador for Scholl’s #FeetOfTheNation campaign. Visit www.scholl.co.uk to nominate the hardest-working feet you know.