Today marks the 200 days to go mark until the London 2012 Olympics come alive and our top Welsh athletes don their GB kit to take on the best in the world. Excited? We are!
One of Wales’ brightest prospects is 18-year-old taekwondo star, Jade Jones, from Flint in North Wales. The -57kg fighter, who won gold at the 2010 Youth Olympics and a World Championship silver in 2011, only stepped up to senior level last year but is already hotly tipped for medal success on home soil.
After seeing her weight category chosen for the London Games, Jones admits that the prospect of competing on home territory - and landing GB Taekwondo’s first Olympic gold medal - is spurring her on. Sport Wales caught up with Jade for a chat.
Sport Wales: Hi Jade. The London Olympics are really close now, are you excited?
Jade Jones: I’m really excited about being involved in a home Games. It’s a one in a lifetime chance, I’m not going to get this again. For it to be in London is amazing, and for my first Olympics as well. I know everybody wants to be a part of it, so I’m very lucky.
Sport Wales: What’s your ultimate goal for London?
Jade Jones: My aim is definitely nothing less than gold. I know it’s going to be so hard because there’s already 12 people qualified for the Olympics, and every person’s hard, so every single fight is going to be like my life depends on it. It’s my first Olympics, and I’m only 18, so I’m just going to give it everything I can and see what happens.
Sport Wales: How are your preparations going?
Jade Jones: It’s been going great so far, I’ve had a really good year. Every competition I’ve been to I’ve medalled. Even if it’s not gold every time I’m still up there. So hopefully it’s the same this year and I just keep training and trying to make every little thing better and then see how it goes at the London 2012 Olympics.
Sport Wales: You’ve had an epic year, what’s been the highlight?
Jade Jones: It’s got to be the world championships. There was a lot of pressure going into it. There were three girls who were up for an Olympic place, so it was just basically whoever did the best. Then I managed to come away with a silver - just losing by one point. So I was gutted because I was so close to being World Champion but after it I was pleased because it got my weight selected for the Olympics.
Sport Wales: What’s your typical day of training like?
Jade Jones: “I train for about six hours a day. In the morning about nine until 12pm and then again at 3.30pm. It’s just different types of training. Sometimes it’s general; so it’s all running and conditioning work, but then when we get closer to a competition it’s all about kicking, sparring and learning techniques. We do weights and plyos (plyometrics: a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements) there are loads of different things.
Sport Wales: You get to train with top coaches and athletes like Sarah Stevenson (2011 World Champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist), what’s that like?
Jade Jones: “It’s great because when I was younger I always looked up to Sarah. So every day being her training partner was a bit weird at first. It’s inspirational. I want to be as good as her or better!
Sport Wales: What’s it like when you come home to Flint?
Jade Jones: “It’s always nice to come home. People are always dead friendly and wishing me good luck. It just makes you realise that there’s a lot of people following you and it makes you want to do well even more.
Sport Wales: What’s it like being a role model to young girls and are there enough female role models in sport?
Jade Jones: “It’s nice to be a role model to young girls. To know that they want to be like me. It makes me want to do even better and make everybody proud. When I come home and see how proud Flint is and how much they’re rooting for me to do well it’s nice. I definitely think there are enough female role models at the moment. There’s loads of world champions, so there’s a lot of talent out there.
Sport Wales: Finally what words of advice would you give to any young people interested in taking part in taekwondo or any other sport?
Jade Jones: “Get into sport; whether it’s taekwondo or any sport, because it’s really good and keeps you fit and healthy. It’s something you can enjoy, so get into sport.”