Jade Jones: From golden glory to jumping from the slopes

Jade Jones
Jade Jones has twice won gold in the taekwondo at the Olympics

When the line-up for Channel 4's winter-sports reality show 'The Jump' was announced, a few eyebrows were raised when Wales' double Olympics taekwondo champion Jade Jones was unveiled.

Olympic cycling champion Sir Bradley Wiggins, Wales rugby stars Gareth Thomas and Jason Robinson and reality television stars like Spencer Matthews might have received more publicity.

But Jones' decision to swap the taekwondo mat for the ski slopes of Austria was not something predicted by many people.

So why has Jones chosen to take a sporting sabbatical having already revealed her desire to go for an historic third Olympic title in Tokyo in 2020, following success at London 2012 and last year in Rio?

"People don't realise when you have done a sport for so long and put everything into it, it take its toll and is tiring and draining," Jones told BBC Wales Sport.

"I have done two Olympics cycles and am still only 23.

"I got to a point that if I was going to go to Tokyo in 2020 and perform, I needed to do something different, fun, and have a break.

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"The show has been perfect because I love competitive things. It's right up my street. the adrenaline rush of trying something new and having a big break from taekwondo."

Jones believes the break can help her bid to win another Olympic gold medal in just over three year's time.

"It can help me because I feel ready to go back now," Jones continued.

"Before, I couldn't imagine going back into the gym and just cracking on for four years.

"I am accepting I am using this year to get more publicity, try and make more money and also have a bit more of a life. Next year I will be 100 per cent serious."

An unhappy coach

Kadeena Cox
Kadeena Cox had her funding suspended after joining Channel 4's The Jump

Jones' decision was not welcomed by her coach Paul Green or GB Taekwondo.

The governing body have decided to keep funding Jones, unlike fellow contestant and Paralympic gold medallist Kadeena Cox who had her UK Sport funding suspended after British Athletics made the decision to withdraw Cox's funding with the support of British Cycling while the show was going on.

"I am not going to lie, my coach wasn't happy and is still not happy," said Jones.

"I don't blame him because it is a big risk. Doing a skiing show when you have not skied before is a gamble.

"It was just something personally I needed to do and my mind was set.

"GB Taekwondo were trying to tell me it was dangerous and whether I was sure. They knew I needed the break and respected my decision because I had been there for so long and had given a lot to the sport.

"Although they didn't agree with it, they still stood by me. I am going to be working with them for the next four years so it's nice they have got my back.

"They understand me as a person and not just as an athlete."

Developing taekwondo

Jones believes the experience of trying a winter sport has helped her and develop taekwondo's profile.

Jade Jones and Gareth Edwards
Jade Jones receives her BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality 2016 award from Wales rugby great Gareth Edwards

"It has helped me come out of my shell a lot," she said.

"Coming from a sport where you are just focusing on competing, you don't socialise much and and I can enjoy my life a bit more.

"I'm loving the challenge and also think it's a good thing for my sport. Taekwondo is on television once every four years at the Olympics and that's it.

"The Jump is going to be on television every Sunday and that's more than the Olympics itself. It's good for the sport and I am glad I am helping get taekwondo out there."

Nerve racking

Beth Tweddle
Beth Tweddle was seriously injured after competing in The Jump in 2016

What Jones has had to cope with is learning a new skill and competing in a show that has had a number of high profile injuries like actress Tina Hobley, swimmer Rebecca Adlington and gymnast Beth Tweddle.

"I have had no injuries so far and know my limits," Jones added.

"It was the first live show last week and it was so nerve racking. I got such a buzz out of it being on the start line.

"It felt like I was going into the Olympics and I had to keep reminding myself it was a bit of fun.

"People watching the show don't realise how much we train. It has been six weeks of training and long nights.

"Having used to being good at taekwondo and being the best, it's been hard to start from scratch and learn a new skill."

Frustrated and scared

Jade Jones
Jade Jones celebrates after winning gold at Rio 2016

Jones has admitted it has also been a humbling experience after the first live television show was aired last Sunday, however.

"I was getting frustrated at first," added Jones.

"I was also genuinely scared. When you are not good at something and are being put at the top of a ski slope in the Austrian mountains, it's petrifying.

"I'm not expecting to win but it would be great if I made the final."

Once it's all over, Jones hopes to return for the World Championships in South Korea at the end of June, a title the Flint woman has never won.

"When I get back, hopefully in one piece, I want to do the World Championships," Jones continued.

"But I have taken the pressure off myself."

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