A week since the Tokyo Olympics were postponed in response to the coronavirus outbreak there is a need among the athletes affected to move on and focus on the positives. That is certainly what Jade Jones is doing. The two-time taekwondo gold medallist admits she felt “gutted” following last Tuesday’s news but now her mindset has well and truly changed.
The pursuit of history is key to why Jones is refusing to mope. Tokyo offers her the chance to become the first athlete in her sport to claim three Olympic golds and she is ultimately grateful that she can still achieve that milestone. “If the Olympics had been cancelled, as opposed to postponed, that would’ve broken me as I wouldn’t then have had a chance to do what no one else in taekwondo has ever done,” she says. “I’m just grateful the Olympics are still on.
“Mentally, it’s tough. I’ve been training for four years for that one moment and, as an athlete, you try to peak for that. All the training and preparation is geared towards that … and then it’s gone. But it had got to the stage where it was hard to carry on anyway as all of our training camps and competitions were getting cancelled. At least after last week’s announcement we now know where we stand. We also have another year to become even better athletes.”
Just over a year, in fact, after the International Olympic Committee announced on Monday that the Games will begin on 23 July next year, with the Paralympic Games starting on 24 August. When athletes will be able to start training and competing given enforced self‑isolation is another matter and while that is naturally a worry for all concerned it is not a huge issue for Jones given she has been able to set up a gym at the house she shares in Manchester with friend and fellow British taekwondo competitor, Bianca Walkden.
“As soon as we were told the Team GB academy was shutting we zoomed down there in the car, grabbed as much kit as we could and took it home,” says Jones. “We then chucked everything we had in the garage and spent a day fixing it up. I’m actually quite chuffed with it. And I’ve always wanted a home gym, so at least that’s something I’ve been able to achieve during all of this.
“I’m also spending time allowing my body to recover. As an athlete training takes a big toll on you, so I’m getting all the right nutrients down me as well as using the recovering stuff that’s been provided by my sponsors, Under Armour. I’m trying to turn every second at home into a positive.”
But that can be difficult. Jones is missing seeing her family back in north Wales – “not being able to go home and give them a hug is hard” – and there is only so far forcing yourself to look on the bright side can go when you have had the rug sharply pulled from underneath your feet.
Jones should be in a pre-Olympics training camp right now before flying out to Tokyo on 14 July. And there is little doubt the 27-year-old stood an excellent chance of securing that third succcessive gold medal in the Japanese capital. Quite simply, Jones is one of the very best around in her sport, as shown by the world championship gold she secured in Manchester last May.
“I’m not going to lie, it took me a few days to get my head around the fact the Olympics were not going to take place this summer,” she says. “I found out at the same time as everyone else, while watching the news, and I was gutted.
“Fortunately at GB Taekwondo we have a psychologist [Dr Steve Peters] and he called me up on the day of the announcement to check how I was, which helped. That support remains there and as an athlete you’re used to dealing with adversity. So that’s what I’m doing.
“Besides, sport is pretty unimportant right now. What is important is the health of my family and friends and everybody around the world.”
That much is true and, eventually, life will return to normal. For Jones that will mean getting out of her home gym and into the one she uses at Team GB’s academy, working alongside her coach, Martin Stamper, and gearing up for what is now next year’s 2020 Games.
“What’s for sure is that it’s going to be a crappy couple of months and my biggest worry is that spending all this time at home will lead to me getting fat,” Jones says with a laugh. “But it will end at some point and then it will be a case of re-planning for the Olympics and making sure I’m once again in peak condition at the right time. That’s a lot to take in right now but I’m ready for the challenge. A champion always finds a way.”