As the Double Olympic Champion Jade Jones OBE rang in 2020, like many of us, she had high hopes for what the year had in store. For Jade, she had high hopes of becoming the first person to win 3 Olympic gold medals in any Taekwondo weight class after her first victory at the tender age of 19 at the London 2012 Olympics and the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Unfortunately, due to the global pandemic, she now finds herself holed up in her Manchester home isolating with two friends and her boyfriend training in her garage instead of planning her route to Tokyo 2020.
Here, as Jade prepares to join GLAMOUR’S first ever virtual festival, Lockdown Live on Friday 22nd May with a 30-minute Olympic Bodyweight HIIT Workout – get your tickets here – she talks about dealing with Tokyo 2020 being postponed, how she is remaining motivated and her relationship with her body image…
How did you deal with the news that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were being postponed?
At the start of 2020 I was literally like, “This is my year.” I had so much exciting things planned and training hardcore for the Olympics to obviously try and become the first ever person to win three Olympic golds for Taekwondo. I thought it was going to be the biggest year ever and then, next minute, we’re all locked down and nothing’s happening at all. So, I was disappointed at first, but then I try to see the positives, and now I’m just thinking, maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, because I had the little injury, so now I’ve got longer to prepare and I can get in better shape than ever before. Hopefully as well, it’ll probably take a bit of pressure off by just putting everything into perspective. Whereas I was going into it a bit stressed and thinking, “it’s the end of the world if I don’t win,” whereas now it’s like, “God, I’m lucky to even be going and having a chance now.”
Where were you when you found out and what was your initial reaction when you found out?
A lot of people think that we get told first or get a heads up, but I was having my dinner it come on the news,” the Olympics are getting postponed.” But I think once we found out it was a lot better, whereas the hardest bit was thinking that we were training for the Olympics, and then obviously trying to train for it in my garage, and trying to bust my guts trying to train like an Olympic athlete, where it’s impossible to do it properly on lockdown.
What’s training like for you in lockdown, how are you managing?
I’m managing it quite well, to be fair. As soon as we heard, we changed my garage into a training room. So, we got Taekwondo mats, weights and we ran to the National Academy where we train and literally took all the stuff, so then we had as much stuff as possible. Then we just tried to keep a similar schedule, we kick in the morning, and then we’ll do weights or running, and then just trying to mix it up as well because obviously it is weird times, just to keep motivated.
Taekwondo is a weight category as well, so I’ve put on quite a bit of weight while we’ve been in lockdown, because obviously we’re not burning as much calories and we’re still eating like athletes – we’re constantly eating! So, the nutritionist is constantly messaging me, “What’s your weight? Are you eating healthy? Are you doing this?” But obviously, he can’t actually get to me, so I can just eat what I want. Then my coach as well, I’ve started doing Zoom sessions, so I just sticking him on the side, and then basically he’s still leading the session and telling me what to do but just through Zoom. It’s all a bit bonkers, to be honest.
Does being the double Olympic champion that you already are, does that give you less pressure or does that give you more pressure?
No, it gives me more if anything. I reckon, the more you win, the more pressure that you’ve got on you. When I was younger and I’d not won anything, it was literally like, you’ve got nothing to lose, you just go in to win, and everything to gain. Whereas, now it’s like, even if I get silver, it’s like, “Oh, what’s happened to Jade? She’s underperforming.” Back in the day, a medal would be amazing, whereas now anything but gold is a failure. So, it is a lot of pressure, especially in a sport like Taekwondo where there’s a lot of factors, it’s not just, who’s the best as someone could get a sneaky kick in!
How do you cope with pressure and prevent it overwhelming you?
I’m still learning along the way. I’m not perfect at it. But I try to think that everything I’ve won so far no one can take it away from me. Whereas, when I did used to struggle, I was fighting to prove something or fighting because I’m the Olympic champion. Whereas now if I lose, no one can take them away, I’ve already got them. I just try to see it as a new thing and a new goal, as if it’s a level playing field and I’m just another person trying to get that gold medal.
What do you tell yourself when you’re feeling demotivated?
It is hard, I’m not going to lie, some days I just think, “What is the point in training?” But I just remind myself how it makes me feel each day as when you have done it you do feel so much better. I just try to better myself each day. If I am feeling really unmotivated, instead of forcing myself to do that same session that I would always do in the national team, I would mix it up, like I’d do a bit of yoga, or go out for a run when it’s sunny, or do the session outside. I still push myself and still get the training done, but just try to do it in a different way.
How does always being a certain weight for your sport affect your relationship with your body image?
I don’t know, I suppose it can be negative, because you’re so used to being a weight category. Mine is 57 kilos, and I’m quite tall as well, so for a grown woman it’s probably not normal to be that light when I’ve got a lot of muscle on as well. When you are heavy and you’re not that normal weight, you feel like, “Oh my god, I’m heavy, I’ve put on weight”, because you’re just so used to being that exact weight. When I retire, I just will try to go on how I feel and how I look rather than checking the scales to see if I’m still in the weight category.
It can be hard sometimes, especially as a girl is, “supposed,” to be curvy and girly, whereas sometimes we can be quite sporty, “manly,” and obviously, muscly. But I just see it as, that’s what makes me who I am, and that’s why I’m an Olympic champion. I just embrace it.
You’re a warrior, so that’s it at the end of the day and if anyone ever said anything, you can just be like, “Here’s my medals!”
Or, just kick them in the face!
If you could be on a Zoom call right with the you who was going into that gold medal fight when you first won your Olympic gold medal, what do you think you’d want to tell her?
I would tell her just remember it more and take in every little detail, because obviously I’ve still got amazing memories and it was literally amazing, but I wish I would have just sucked it in even more. For my first one, when I was 19, it’s just all like a blur, and it was just so amazing, it was a whirlwind, so I just wish I would have took it in even more.
What do you think you’ve learnt about yourself from then to now?
When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand that I was mentally strong and had a good mindset, whereas now, as I’m getting older, you appreciate that even more. So now I look back and I think, “God, how did I do that when I was 19? I took on the best in the world!” Whatever’s thrown at me, I can handle it. I’m mentally strong.
Does having that level of mental strength from sport make you feel more equipped to deal with the situation we find ourselves in now?
I think being an athlete you do have to deal with a lot including pressure, the ups and downs, an injury coming along, or you get ill, or you lose. So many different scenarios are constantly being thrown at you, so I think you do get a thick skin and you’re quicker at being able to handle it and bounce of situations. But I’m just human, and like everyone else, the quarantine is hard. Everyone gets anxiety. I’m missing my family. I still feel all that, but just know how to handle it.
Speaking of those ups and downs, is there a down that retrospectively empowered you?
I had the same coach from when I was 17 to the Rio Olympics. Then he just left and went to a different country. At first that was so mentally tough, and I didn’t believe that I could do it on my own. I felt like I needed him. Whereas, now I’ve learned to overcome that and to train myself and to push myself, and basically to win without thinking I needed that coach.
Jade Jones will be appearing at GLAMOUR’S Lockdown Live virtual festival. Get your tickets here for her live bodyweight work out and Jade is an Optimum Nutrition brand ambassador