Cymru Culture

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Interview with Jade Jones

(June 01, 2017)

Interview with Jade Jones

Jade Jones yng Ngemau Olympaidd 2012- source: File:Jade Jones - Taekwondo London 2012.jpg

The people of Wales are proud of Jade Jones, voting her BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year; in 2012 and 2016. The people of Flint, Jade's home town, are especially proud of her. Leisure centres across Wales are called after their town. In Flint, they have the Jade Jones Pavilion; renamed after London 2012 when Jade won Olympic taekwondo gold. After she won another Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016, people lined the streets for her open-top bus tour of the town, and joined her for a firework display held at Flint Castle in her honour. No individual has won three Olympic taekwondo gold medals. But... Flint Town Council had better start putting some money away now. Tokyo 2020 will be here before we know it, and Jade will be there.

Jade very kindly took some time away from training to talk to us at Cymru Culture.

 

CC... For those of us unfamiliar with taekwondo, tell us about it.

JJ... Taekwondo is an explosive, dynamic sport. You have to be flexible and aggressive. You need a wide range of qualities. Basically, it's whoever scores the most points from kicks to the body and the head: three points for a kick to the face; two points for a kick to the body now; and an extra point if it's from a spin.

 

CC... Winning Olympic gold at London 2012 must have changed your life forever. What differences did you notice at the time and, looking back, are there others you became aware of later?

JJ... A hard question that, actually. One of the biggest differences, not many people know, I wasn't brought up wealthy. I lived in a council house, in a tiny little place in Flint. Without taekwondo, and without winning the Olympics my life wouldn't be how it is now; getting to go to all these amazing things and having these amazing opportunites. Having the chance to do all these things in life that I would never have been able to do.

And then, what I didn't realise about winning the Olympics was the role model aspect you have to take on – you just have to be it. People look up to you now and watch what you do. Obviously it's lovely that people look up to you, but you don't ask for it and you don't get the choice when you get up in the morning. But I want to be the best role model I can. It does put more pressure on you; everyday things. I won the Olympics when I was only 19, still a teenager, and people were looking up to me. Even going out drinking... you've constantly got to be wary of what you're doing and to do the right thing. You owe it it yourself. 

Jade Jones at the 2012 London Olympics, image: Nizam Uddin
Jade Jones at the 2012 London Olympics,
Image: Nizam Uddin

CC... Travelling around the world meeting loads of interesting people must be one of the most rewarding aspects of elite sport. When you tell other athletes from many different countries you are from Wales, what reaction do you receive?

JJ... People ask where I'm from in England, or Britain, and I always say Wales. A few people are like, 'Where?' and I explain. A lot of them find it fascinating, because most people from the team say England – and they're always quite intruigued as to where Wales is. But now, people are starting to know where we are. They're interested, and they want to come and visit and see what Wales is like.

CC... Do you think that might be from the football (Euro 2016), or from you?

JJ... I'm not sure really. It might be from a bit of everything. Obviously for taekwondo fans it's from me saying, but also [Welsh] sport's getting so much bigger, in all sports everyone's just doing so much better that we're definitely putting Wales on the map now. It's definitely an amazing thing to be able to go around the world with my sport. To be meeting so many different people and different types of athletes. A lot of people don't understand, they think you get to go all around the country, but you actually don't. Because you're there for one reason, and your sole focus is on winning the championship. You don't get to see the country as much as people think. But it's still amazing to be able to travel and to get to go to different countries. As much as I can, I try to have a couple of days to enjoy seeing the country. Usually, it's just the hotel that you've been given. Then straight away your thinking about the competition. You don't want to go out and visit because you don't want to be on your legs too much. Another taekwondo venue could be anywhere in the world, really.

CC... Other than the Olympics, where are the most memorable places you've been?

JJ... Korea is one of them, because it's the home of taekwondo. That was always special. I remember going to the Olympic Park in Seoul [built to host the 1988 summer Olympics, Ed.]. I'd won the Olympics, but this is where my Olympic dreams had started. It was amazing to imagine and to think about the dream. I always loved the culture in Korea, on so many different levels, it is all about respect. It's such a totally different culture - they eat rice for breakfast for example – so it's amazing to truly see the difference of another culture.

Also Singapore. I've got good memories there from the youth Olympics, getting gold there, and with my family. So that was pretty memorable.

CC... Most people watching you on television at major tournaments will have no idea of the dedication required to compete at an elite level. How do you maintain your fitness levels and what do you change to prepare for competition?

JJ... That's true. Most people don't think about taekwondo because it's a low-key sport, that the senior Olympic women just turn up on the day. But there's all the long years of gruelling training; hours in the gym. I'm actually training for five hours every single day, I just get Sundays off. It's hard work. It's weights, running. I've got to maintain my weight as well. I can't just eat whatever I want and be as heavy as I want. I've got to maintain a weight to make the weight category [the four Olympic women's weight categories are: under 49 kg; under 57 kg; under 67 kg; and over 67 kg. Jade competes at under 57 kg, Ed.]

Even at the weekend when I'm not training, you've got to rest; because your life revolves around the tournaments. It is quite a strict, hard life. But because I want to be the very best it's worth it for me.

CC... The discipline expected within squad training must become overbearing at times. Have you ever rebelled?

Jade Jones  - Rio 2016JJ... Ha ha, quite a few times. Not in a bad way, but... Every athlete has different views on it, but my view is that you can't be a robot. You've got to be happy as well, otherwise you won't perform. I still, now and again, go out with my friends – just doing things that make you happy. After a big competition I will have a big feast, eat whatever I want, even if I put on some weight. I just let go, because it's been so strict for so long before the competition. I believe you need that period after the competition to mentally switch off. Then I get back focussed again a couple of weeks later. After a major tournament, like the Olympics, that's when it takes longest. Because it's not just the training. Mentally you've been focussed on that one event for years and years. That's why many athletes have quite a few months off, thinking that now, they can do whatever they want. But, after a long break my body just wants to get back to get fit again. You see yourself getting out of shape and because you're so used to being fit, you want to get back to the way you ought to be.

CC... How often do you have the opportunity to go home to Flint? Have you always coped well with the hiraeth? What do you miss most?

JJ... I get to go to Flint quite a lot; every weekend I'm free, if I'm not competing abroad, doing some sort of media thing, or not going away with my friends. I'm a homebird. All my family still live there. I love my family and love spending time with them, so I try to go home all the time. I do miss some things, it's probably my family I miss most if I'm away for a long period. And my dog, who lives there now. He's a little Pomeranian, called Christo. I promised myself that if I won in Rio I would get myself a little dog. And I named him Christo, after the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.

CC... The possibility of serious injury is ever-present in all contact sports. In boxing, rugby and football, concussion and its potential long-term effects has been given a new-found awareness and respect. As someone who famously says “I kick people in the head for a living .. and i love it !!”, how conscious are you of the dangers?

JJ... It's really good that people are becoming aware of it now. It is an important issue and the more help and support we can get to stop that happening is all positive. In my sport I have seen a lot more things put in place to help spot it and to stop people getting hurt from it. But, at the end of day its a contact sport, and it happens. We can try and prevent it as much as we can, but when you're in a contact sport you know the consequences, and that it can happen.

 

CC... Are you from a 'sporty' family?

JJ... All my family are quite good at sports, but nobody actually took it up. My brother Luke has, he's got in the GB [taekwondo] team... and he's only been doing it about two years. He's not even a black belt yet. But he's really amazing. He's got his first competition next weekend, in the Austrian Open [3-4 June 2017]. He's incredibly talented. So, hopefully, he can go all the way.

 

CC... Please pass on our best wishes to your brother for Austria. What do you do to unwind, away from the sport?

JJ... Because it's so hectic during the week because I'm always training, my most favourite thing is... spa weekends. To relax, get a massage, and fully chill out. Other than that just normal things: to see my friends, to go the cinema.

 

CC... We've been watching your preparations for the new Sky Sports series Mission Mudder [see below] on your Twitter feed. Looks like you had a ball. Tell us all about it. Was it as fun as it looks?

JJ... Yeah, I've had so much fun. There's six athletes all together. It's mainly just getting to know each of them properly. I've been spending so much time with them. I'm just off to watch Anthony boxing in Sheffield now [English boxer Anthony Fowler, a Commonwealth gold medal winner, won his proffessional debut with a first round knockout on 27 May 2017]. We've all got so close. We had such a laugh. What was weird looking back is that in all the pictures I'm just constantly smiling. But Tough Mudder was actually like torture: we got electrocuted; chucked into freezing, ice-cold water... It was hard, but we had fun because we were working as a team. Me being from an individual sport it was different. We had to push each other on as a team. It wasn't so much the physical challenge I found hard, it was mentally. Keeping going when you're so cold, and so tired. And I think it was helpful for my taekwondo training too.

Jade Jones during Mission Mudder Jade Jones Mission Mudder 1

Jade Jones during Mission Mudder
Jade Janes competing at Tough Mudder
Images: ©SAN

Mission Mudder, Sky Sports Mix
Image: ©WILSONWORLDWIDEPRODUCTIONS

CC... Jade Jones, thank you.

Dai Barnaby, June 2017

Jade Jones will be appearing in Mission Mudder, produced by Wilson Worldwide Productions on Sky Sports Mix (Channel 407) this summer.

 

MISSION MUDDER

6-part series made by Wilson Worldwide Productions for broadcast on Sky Sports Mix later this year. Mission Mudder follows six elite athletes, all Olympians, all in their twenties, as they train to take on a series of obstacle courses as a Team.

  • Jade Jones, Double Gold, Taekwondo, 2012 & 2016 Olympics.
  • Anthony Fowler, Boxer. Gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow, 2014.

  • Ashley McKenzie, Judoka. British Number One in 60kg class, Commonwealth Gold, Glasgow, 2014.

  • Perri-Shakes Drayton, track and field athlete. Gold in 4 x 400m Relay, World Indoor Championships, Istanbul.

  • Aimee Fuller, Snowboarder, in Slope Style and Big Air. 7th in the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sochi, for Team GB.

  • Jess Varnish, Track Cyclist. Gold at the World Championships, European Team Sprint, Apeldoorn, 2011.

Along with the Team, Jade Jones takes part in the 5-mile Tough Mudder Half in San Bernardino, outside Los Angeles, with 14 obstacles. A Tough Mudder Full: 11 miles and 24 obstacles, in Henley on Thames. Finishing with as many laps as possible of an overnight event: Europe’s first Toughest Mudder. This final challenge starts at midnight and runs through the night until 8am with up to 16 obstacles on every 5-mile lap. Aiming to complete as many laps as possible with each Team member raising sponsorship money for their individually nominated charity. Jade has selected *Cancer Research UK.

Over the course of the series we discover how each Olympian forged their path from childhood to elite athlete. Look at their training practices. See how they come together as a Team, train together, even trying out one another’s sports as they work towards taking on the obstacle courses.

Across 3 obstacle courses, which get increasingly more difficult, the Team are challenged by conditions such as a lot of deep mud, being outside in the cold, obstacles featuring ice cold water, heights, even electric shocks, and on their final challenge, running through the night. Presented with such unique, even bizarre, challenges an Olympian doesn’t necessarily have an advantage:

"I think being an Olympian, and being at the top of our game, people sometimes can expect you just to be good at everything, but that's not really the case. We are only trained at one thing specifically, our sport. We've put hours and hours and hours and years of work into just that one sport, so when we do try and do other challenges or something new, it is really hard and we struggle just as much as anyone else. I like that we are coming together as a team for this; we’ll all have weaknesses and we’ll all have strengths but hopefully it'll all compliment each other and we come out stronger."
Jade Jones

*Cancer Research UK - charity (1089464)

 

cylchgrawn Cymru Culture magazine
Published by/Cyhoeddwyd gan: Caregos Cyf., 2017

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