By Gareth James
Jade Jones gave her Olympic bid the perfect boost when she was crowned European Taekwondo champion for the third time in Sofia.
The Flint fighter’s hat-trick of titles sets her up for her bid to become the first person in Taekwondo to win three successive Olympic Games golds this summer.
Jones was crowned champion again after an impressive 20-5 victory over old rival, Turkey’s No 2 seed Hatice Ilgun in the -57kg category in the Bulgarian capital.
➡️UPDATE: She's only gone and done it! 🥇🥇🥇@jadejonestkd defends her European title for the third time 👏
— GB Taekwondo 🇬🇧 (@GBTaekwondo) April 9, 2021
The 2012 and 2016 Games gold medallists’s victory capped a dominating display throughout her four fights as she lived up to her billing as top seed.
The victory was ample compensation for defeats to Ilgun last year at the WT President’s Cup in Helsingborg and European Clubs Championship in Zagreb.
“To win for the third time feels amazing, especially in an Olympic year,” said the 28-year-old.
“When I heard the national anthem I just thought I want to be hearing this again in a few months’ time in Tokyo.
“Because of the pandemic there have been lots of things we have had to handle and it feels so weird having absolutely no crowd. But at least now I have had some practice fighting without one.
“I have got some time off now because it has been a long year. So, I will enjoy that and then come back hungry again.
Jones had booked her place in the final by hammering Belgium’s Raheleh Asemani 35-7 in the semi-final.
Earlier, Jones, nicknamed ‘The Headhunter’, had opened with a 31-4 victory, seeing off Romania’s Alexandra Ge Rache by points gap.
Then in the quarter-finals she beat Finland’s Suvi Mikkonen 48-10