By Hannah Blackwell
Jade Jones believes she is back on course for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games after winning her first tournament since Tokyo 2020.
Wales’ former taekwondo double Olympic champion is convinced she is on the right path for more Games glory after producing a stunning success in her return to action following the disappointment in Japan last summer.
Jones made a stunning return to action at the World Taekwondo President’s Cup in Albania, winning gold in her first tournament back after her shock defeat in Tokyo.
— Jade Jones (@jadejonestkd) February 22, 2022
The London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic champion defeated long-time Swedish born, Croatian rival, Nikita Glasnovic in the final of the -57kg division.
Jones, competing for the first time since a first-round heartbreak by Refugee team athlete Kimia Alizadeh in Japan last July, won her latest battle against fourth seed Glasnovic 10-2.
That capped a superb comeback to the mat for the 28-year-old from Flint. She defeated Belgium’s Raheleh Asemani 18-4 in the semi-finals and Russian Elena Kriveichenko 13-6 in the last eight.
“It was a tough day, mentally and physically,” said Jones. “But it was great to be back in the mix and I am chuffed I really enjoyed it.
“It feels super good to be back on top. It was good practice for the European Championships in Manchester in May.
“But it is also important to pick up ranking points to qualify for Paris 2024. It’s fantastic to start the Paris journey with a win and 20 ranking points.
“It was good to take a step back after Tokyo, even more so this time when it didn’t go so well. But it made me realise again how much I love the sport and why I do it.”
Jones will now go forward to the Belgium Open in March to continue the countdown to the Euros.
Fellow Welsh star Lauren Williams also achieved a podium placing. Last year’s Olympic silver medallist from Blackwood stepped up from -67kg to -73kg and finished runner-up to French rival Althea Laurin.
Triple world champion Bianca Walkden had to settle for bronze at +73kg. “It’s not the colour I came for,” said the Liverpool heavyweight.
“But you brush it off, learn from it, fix it and then come back stronger,” added Walkden after her 4-3 golden point defeat to Turkish rival, Nafia Kus.
The Manchester trained GB Taekwondo squad’s final medal came in the men’s -87kg division.
Caden Cunningham from Huddersfield underlined his potential by reaching the semi-finals before Croatian Ivan Sapina, the World and European bronze medallist, halted his progress with a 12-8 victory.