Jade Jones has history in her sights as she blocks out Tokyo speculation
Taekwondo star Jade Jones says her burning desire for a place in the Olympic history books is drowning out any negativity and uncertainty surrounding the forthcoming Tokyo Games.
Welsh fighter Jones will travel to the Japanese capital seeking an unprecedented third gold medal in the sport following triumphs at London 2012 and Rio in 2016.
The 28-year-old has previously admitted that constant speculation around the rescheduled event, which was pushed back a year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, caused her to feel demotivated.
But, while there has been growing opposition to the Games in the host country due to the impact of Covid-19, Jones is blocking out the background noise and is fully focused on once again doing the business in the -57kg division.
“I don’t think I’ve ever said it’s going to be rubbish but obviously it’s going to be different,” she said.
“I’m used to all of my family being there and I’m a big-game player; I like the crowd, I like that energy to get me to that next level.
“We’re just so lucky that the Olympics will be on, so we’ve just got to take that.
“The fact I want to win gold that much that (any organisational issues) will be put to the back of my head and now I am just thinking of bringing that gold home and enjoying it after the Games.”
Jones has been included in a five-person squad, alongside world champions Bianca Walkden and Bradly Sinden, as well as Mahama Cho and Lauren Williams.
She has already completed a clean sweep of major taekwondo titles across her career, having finally ended her World Championship hoodoo by winning in Manchester two years ago.
The number one seed is proud of previous successes but eager to continue her dominance and add to a crowded trophy cabinet.
“You always want more. I’ve had them (her two Olympic golds) in the bag for ages so now I want to win this one,” she said.
“But at least I’ve ticked everything off.
“I will give it everything I’ve got to get this third gold and then I’ve just got to be proud of myself then because I couldn’t have done any more. What will be will be.”
The quintet of Jones, Walkden (+67kg), Sinden (-68kg), Williams (-67kg) and Cho (+80kg) is Britain’s largest taekwondo team at an Olympics, surpassing the previous record of four competitors at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
Team GB performance director Gary Hall believes each of the five athletes is capable of gold and has set a target of “two to three” medals overall.
Achieving that objective would demonstrate consistency in the sport following two medals in 2012 and three in 2016, spearheaded by Jones’ successive golds.
“We hope that that medal run will continue; we have no reason to believe it won’t continue,” said Hall.
We believe every single one of these athletes – and I say this with complete confidence – is capable of winning an Olympic gold medal.
“We have the biggest team we’ve ever put in but also the most talented team we’ve ever put in.
“We know we want two to three. But there are a lot of circumstances that we are managing around that you never can say.
“The (individual) athlete has a target and they regularly go around with the mantra: ‘It’s only about gold’. And it is only about gold when you get to this stage.
“That’s what we are going for and we believe every single one of these athletes – and I say this with complete confidence – is capable of winning an Olympic gold medal.”
The choice for the men’s heavyweight place had been heavily debated.
Lutalo Muhammad, who won bronze at London 2012 and silver at Rio 2016, stepped up from -80kg to the +80kg category in 2018 but, following a series of injury problems, missed out to former world silver medallist Cho.
“Lutalo is a world-class athlete and having got medal success at both of his previous Games he was really hopeful to get a third,” said Hall.
“He’s tried his best, he’s got up the rankings but not got high enough to allow us to select him because you’ve got to be in the top 20 in the world and he didn’t quite make that.
“He’s still there (as a) reserve, should anything happen to Cho. I absolutely would love to have him in the team but you’ve got two very, very good athletes in that category and Cho gets it this time around.”