Photo credit: Emmanuel Hammond
To mark three decades of the IWA’s role in making Wales better, we decided to look forward to ‘the next thirty years’ by introducing some of the people who will be shaping ‘the Welsh agenda’ as the future unfolds. We have teamed up with PricewaterhouseCoopers and their #GreatWales campaign, which celebrates the ideas and people who contribute to the Wales of the future.
Jade Jones, 23, is an Olympic taekwondo medallist
Affectionately known as ‘the headhunter’ due to her exciting fighting style, Jade Jones MBE was Team GB’s youngest Olympic Gold medallist at London 2012 and is Britain’s first and sole Olympic taekwondo champion.
Introduced to taekwondo by her grandfather as a means of self-defence when she was just 8 years old, Jade proved to be a rare and natural talent, falling in love with the sport. By the time she left school at 16 to take up taekwondo full time, she was ranked the UK’s number 1 junior athlete and other accolades were quick to follow.
Fighting in the -55kg division, Jade turned professional in 2010 and in the same year produced a remarkable performance in her first international competition. Competing for Great Britain at the Youth Olympics in Singapore, Jade claimed a major victory with Team GB’s first ever taekwondo Gold medal; an achievement that saw her named BBC Wales Junior Sportswoman of the Year.
Over the next few years, a steady stream of international Silver and Bronze medals followed as she began to establish herself not only as GB’s elite taekwondo fighter, but as one of the best in the world.
In 2011, fighting in the -57kg category and aged just 18, Jade won a silver medal at the World Championships in South Korea, narrowly missing out on the Gold medal in a sudden death decider against her Chinese opponent, Hou Yuzhuo. The following year, Jade vowed that being beaten by Yuzhuo ‘wasn’t happening again in front of my home crowd.’ True to her word, at the London 2012 Olympics Jade defeated Hou Yuzhou in the final to become Team GB’s youngest Olympic champion that year. Rounding off a remarkable 2012, Jade became the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year and was awarded an MBE, all whilst a teenager.
Adding the World Grand Prix and European Games titles to her collection, Jade has dominated the -57kg weight taekwondo division and was ranked the best taekwondo fighter in the world leading up to the Rio 2016 Olympics.
After winning the European Championships just a few weeks before heading to Rio, Jade carried the expectant hopes of the nation on her shoulders as she looked to retain her title. Producing a faultless display well advanced of her years, Jade successfully defended her title to become a double Olympic Champion. In doing so, at 23 years old Jade became the youngest Brit ever to retain an Olympic title and is still the only Team GB athlete to be crowned an Olympic champion in taekwondo.
Britain’s greatest ever martial artist, the proud Welsh woman is already setting her sights on retaining her crown in Tokyo 2020 to become a triple Olympic champion, something that nobody in taekwondo has ever achieved.
Each day, throughout the month of June, we are celebrating the exceptional people on the Next 30 list by publishing a short pen portrait here on Click on Wales, as well as raising their profile on Twitter using #IWAnext30 and #GreatWales to highlight the exciting contributions these people are making to Wales’ future.