By Ian Gordon
As a double Olympic taekwondo champion just a few months past her 23rd birthday, Jade Jones had the world at her golden feet.
Having shot to sporting prominence in London 2012 she defended her title in Rio two years ago.
That success, though, takes a toll mentally and physically.
Taking a break from the gruelling daily grind of training in the gym, the Bodelwyddan fighter appeared on celebrity shows like ‘The Jump’ and ‘The Chase’.
Then earlier this year she went on E4’s ‘Celebs Go Dating’ programme.
Now though the 25-year-old is on a mission to create history in Japan by becoming the first person to win three Olympic Games gold medals in succession.
“It’s an opportunity I can’t turn down,” said Jones in an interview with Dai Sport at GB Taekwondo’s headquarters in Manchester.
“If I walk away now I’ve thrown away the chance to be the one and only. I don’t think I can live with that.
“After Rio I had a nice time doing different things and I enjoyed the different life experiences.
“But now I am 100 per cent back in, back committed and with the goal of becoming the first and only person to have three Olympic gold medals in taekwondo.”
Jones did consider a switch to the more lucrative Mixed Martial Arts series after Rio where she would undoubtedly have been a success.
That is still on the cards for after Tokyo.
“After two Olympic gold medals it is hard to get in the gym. It’s a hard slog, it’s tough to put yourself through it,” added Jones.
“You think do I really want to go through all that again. It gets harder every cycle which I don’t think people understand.
“I watched the Usain Bolt documentary where he said it’s impossible to be as hungry as the man that’s never been an Olympic champion.
“Mentally, going in as the Olympic champion for that four years everyone is chasing your tail.
“Even in the gym everyone is wanting to beat you and sometimes I am trying to have fun then I come into the gym and everyone is trying to kill me. It’s tough.
“I’m getting older so it’s harder to keep the weight off and when you have trained and done the same thing for so many years it is mentally and physically draining.
“I am either 100per cent or nothing so there is no middle ground. I have got to have a good break then I can commit 100pcer cent
“But to finish my career as the one and only person to have got three would be amazing.
“That is the goal, it’s what keeps me going.
“I only ever imagined myself doing taekwondo so it’s not as it I’ve got this other thing which I can’t wait to do.
“After London I remember thinking I don’t want to be another one hit wonder and can I do it again.
“I’m sitting here now having done it twice and I’m going for something no-one has ever done before.
“It is just an amazing position to be in and I’ve only just turned 25.”
Jones admits she enjoyed her time away from the mat and won’t rule out other celebrity shows as long as there is no risk of injury.
And she admits it was her experiences on ‘Celebs Go Dating’ which has brought more recognition that winning two Olympic titles.
Jones, introduced to the sport by her grandfather while at Flint High School, added: “You get noticed everywhere for being on a dating show but nothing for being a double Olympic champion.
“It’s mad but just the way the world is.
“I go on Celebs Go Dating, now I walk down the street and there are people shouting at me ‘Oh my God, celebs go dating, how did it go?.
“Most times I go out now I get spotted whether it’s at a meal or walking down the street.
“Once I was just talking and someone recognised my voice.
“I had an amazing time on the show and made loads of friends but I’m still single.
“I’m definitely not doing taekwondo for the money as there’s no money in it at all.
“It’s the love the passion, but as well as everybody I have got to make a living and the shows and extra opportunities are hard to turn down.
Jones begins the journey to Tokyo on Friday in Kazan in Russia where she defends the European Championship -57Kg title she won two years ago.
“For a couple of months now I’ve been solid and 100per cent committed,” she added. “I wouldn’t say I am in peak shape but I still know I can go there and get the gold medal.
“I would be devastated if I don’t win. I’m hungry for it. I got the European Championship gold for the first time two years ago so to retain it would be amazing.
“It’s the start of my road to Tokyo now.
“I always manage to rise for the big occasion so I’m confident that whatever happens on the journey I will be able to pull it out of the bag in Tokyo.”