Jade Jones fought back the tears to retain her Olympic taekwondo title with a thrilling win over Spain’s Eva Calvo Gomez at the Rio Olympic Park on Thursday.
The 23-year-old revealed she had been overcome with emotion before her semi-final clash with Nikita Glasnovic as the pressure of closing in on back-to-back triumphs became too much.
Jones held her nerve to see off her long-time rival with two stunning head kicks in the final round, giving her a 16-7 win and making her only the third British woman to retain an individual Olympic crown. Jones said: “I’m so proud of myself because I didn’t realise how much pressure I would feel coming into these Games. I started crying before the semi-final because I was just so nervous and felt so much pressure. But I pulled it off when it mattered so I’m just so happy.”
Jones had skated through the early rounds with the minimum of fuss but knew the Spanish number one posed a different threat that she had initially struggled to contain.
Calvo Gomez’s emergence in the wake of London 2012 coincided with a difficult period for Jones, who admitted she struggled for motivation having achieved her sport’s ultimate prize at such a young age.
Jones lost her world number one ranking to the Spaniard, and two early defeats signalled a shift in power in the women’s featherweight division.
But that spurred Jones to work overtime with her best friend and team-mate, Bianca Walkden, in a bid to work out a way to combat Calvo Gomez’s height advantage.
The hard work paid off when Jones finally got the better of Calvo Gomez in the World Grand Prix final in 2014, a result which marked the Welsh athlete’s return to the top of her sport.
Jones went to Rio holding wins over Calvo Gomez in each of their last two meetings, but knowing she could ill afford to let her mind stray towards the prospective gold medal match-up. She opened the defence of her title with a convincing win over Naima Bakkal of Morocco before two three-point head kicks helped her to a convincing success against Raheleh Asemani of Belgium.
In the semi-finals, Jones got the better of Sweden’s Nikita Glasnovic 9-4 to book her place in the seemingly inevitable showdown against her long-standing rival. After a cagey opening minute Jones made a mockery of her opponent’s height advantage by flicking two quick head shots to storm into a six-point advantage at the end of the first round.
But it was the Spaniard’s turn to get the better in the second, and after dragging the deficit back to four points, a clever, close-quarters head shot cut the Briton’s lead to 7-6 going into the last.
After splitting the first two points of the final round Jones stepped up her advances, nailing two successive head shots to stroll into the history books with an emphatic 16-7 final scoreline.
Jones added: “It feels surreal to be honest. It still doesn’t feel real that I won in London so to have done it again is just crazy.
“I know inside I’m the best but you can still lose so it’s such a scary feeling. You’ve trained for four years of your life, six hours a day, and when it pays off it just feels amazing.”