Jade Jones admits absence of family affected her as bid for Team GB history ends
Jade Jones conceded the absence of ‘Team Crazy’ and her failure to adapt to the empty stands of the Makuhari Hall in Tokyo cost her the chance to go down in history as the first British female to win gold medals at three consecutive Olympics
The 28-year-old was upset 16-12 by the Refugee Team’s Kimia Alizadeh, and was subsequently denied a second chance at a place on the podium when Alizadeh’s semi-final defeat ruled her out of the repechage.
Jones, who emphasised her near-decade long dominance of the women’s -57kg division when she added an elusive world title to her two Olympic crowns in Manchester in 2019, said she was affected by the absence of her family and friends due to pandemic restrictions.
“I just felt I put too much pressure on myself going into it and I really did feel it more than I expected,” said Jones.
“Not having my family there to push me out of that fear zone really did affect me, and I’m gutted I couldn’t do more on the day.
“Normally if I feel the pressure I’ll go out and hear them screaming and see their little faces, and it’ll push me into that attack mode, and that’s what was missing today. I just stayed in the scared mode.”
Jones had appeared unfortunate to draw Alizadeh, a bronze medallist in Rio where she represented Iran, in her opening contest, but appeared to be in little danger when two head kicks helped her establish a two-point lead at the end of the first round.
But Jones’ usual snap was missing and the much taller Alizadeh, who left her homeland to seek sanctuary in Germany in the wake of the Rio Games, turned the bout around before defending her slender advantage in the final stages.
Alizadeh had failed to come through qualifying but was handed a reprieve due to special dispensation afforded the Refugee Team, leaving an odd number in the draw and Jones having to wait to discover who she would face in her opening bout.
Jones’ defeat brought a juddering halt to hopes of Team GB’s first medal of the Games but it failed to puncture the party mood back in her home town of Flint, where those friends and family members had congregated in her auntie’s garden to watch her progress on a specially-erected big screen.
“I’ve got the best family in the world,” added Jones. “I call them ‘Team Crazy’, and it shows even more that when I lost I Facetimed them and they were all celebrating as if I’d won, and they were all so proud of me.
“So I’m really lucky to be going back to that, win or lose. I’ve got all of them and that’s what helps, really.”
Jones will resist the temptation to make a snap decision about her future in the sport and instead divert her attention to supporting her best friend and flat-mate Bianca Walkden, who bids for an elusive Olympic title on Tuesday.
Walkden was in tears in the stands as Jones crashed out, and Jones said she would seek to help the Liverpudlian come to terms with the unusual environment in which she fell short.
Jones added: “Bianca’s been amazing and seeing her up in the crowd crying, I think she is as hurt as me, so I’ll just try to tell her my mistakes so she doesn’t make them, and can go and get that gold medal she deserves.”