Two-time Olympic taekwondo gold medalist Jade Jones, who also triumphed at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, believes many competitors struggle to cope with the pressure at their first major Games
Jones is “100% sure” that the gold she won in Singapore was key to her success in front of a jubilant home crowd in 2012.
Jade Jones knows a thing or two about winning Olympic titles. Great Britain’s taekwondo star high kicked her way to gold at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games, but it was her triumph at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games that set the feisty young Welshwoman on her way.
Now 24, Jones is “100% sure” that the gold she won in Singapore was key to her success in front of a jubilant home crowd in 2012. And she believes the athletes who compete at next year’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires will gain a similar edge over their rivals at future Olympic Games.
“I think a lot of people can’t really handle the pressure at their first Olympics, they perhaps can’t really hack being on the big stage,” Jones said. “But because of Singapore I already felt like I had been there and done it, and it was almost just like another event for me.”
Jones earned Britain’s first Youth Olympic Games gold medal by winning the -55kg event in Singapore, and that provided the youngster with even more motivation. “I was on the podium at the Youth Olympics, hearing the national anthem, and I said to myself, ‘I want this in London.’ I wanted more of that feeling.”
Such determination helped Jones to victory in the -57kg event at London 2012, where she was Britain’s youngest champion and her nation’s first Olympic gold medallist in taekwondo. Four years later in Rio she was the only taekwondo athlete to retain their title.
A key factor in Jones’s success in 2012 was not being overwhelmed by the dizzying variety of new experiences to be found at the world’s biggest sports event. She had already sampled the “surreal” atmosphere of her first multi-sport event in Singapore, where “athletes of all shapes and sizes were all chasing the same dream”.
“Going into the Olympic Village is a bit like going into a festival,” said the woman known as ‘the Headhunter’ due to her liking for high kicks. “There are so many people and so many things happening, but because I had that experience in Singapore I knew to keep my head down and stick to my normal routine. There’s a massive canteen with unlimited food from all over the world, there’s even a games room, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of enjoying it a bit too much.
“I would say (to athletes at the Youth Olympic Games) to enjoy the experience but also to knuckle down and remain focused. If you put in the best performance you can, that would be the best possible experience. Once you’ve competed then you can go around and take all your pictures and enjoy the experience, but ultimately, unless you’ve performed to the best of your abilities, you won’t really enjoy it anyway. So you have to remain focused on your goal.”