JADE'S BACK ON TOP OF HER GAME AS SHE CHASES EURO GOLD.
SHE might already be Olympic champion and world No.1 and still only 21, but Flint taekwondo ace Jade Jones is now looking to add European domination to her illustrious career CV. The European Championships take place in Azerbaijan this week with Jones determined to improve on the bronze medal she claimed two years ago.
"We have got a lot more Grand Prixs coming up which mean more Olympic qualification points but the European Championships is the biggest major tournament this year," said Jones, who will compete next Saturday in the -57kg category following Friday's weigh-in.
"I really want to become European champion. It's going to be hard but I am raring to go and try and take that gold.
"My main competitors are defi-nitely the Spanish girl who has beaten me on the last two occasions. "France, Turkey, Germany are also strong so it won't be easy."
After a mediocre 2013 where she bowed out the world quarter-finals in Mexico and missed part of the year with a back problem, Jones is back on top of the pile after securing her No.1 world ranking following her Fujairah Open title in Dubai earlier this year which was followed up by her Dutch Open triumph last month.
"It's amazing to be world number one," said Jones. "At the end of 2015, the top six in the world automatically qualify for the Rio Olympics so that's the long-term aim.
"If I am still No.1 at that point, that will be another bonus."
The North Walian martial arts ace has admitted she has overcome her mental and physical problems that followed in the aftermath of London 2012.
Jones became a household name after winning Olympic gold, being awarded an MBE and achieving her lifetime ambition at the age of 19 presented its own dilemmas.
"After the Olympics things went a little downhill, but I am back to where I want to be," reflected Jones, who won the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the year in 2012.
"It feels amazing to be now where I am compared to last year. The training has been going well and the last competitions have been good.
"I still have niggles in my back every now and again but it has not stopped me training. It has improved. It's something that will always be there now and I have to manage.
"I am enjoying training again and everything is going good and I just have to keep going.
"My mental attitude has totally changed and I am thriving again.
"Straight after the Olympics, it was hard because I was 19 and had achieved my dream of a gold medal.
"There was a lot of pressure on me and I put too much pressure on myself. I am still only 21 and still feel as one of the young ones.
"I have grown up a lot since the Olympics but still feel young. But I have got a lot wiser and you learn a lot."
Training over the last few weeks for the European event has been tough and innovative with sand pit sessions being introduced into her regime.
"We have had the Koreans over on a training camp which has been good and we have learned a lot from them," said Jones.
"Training in sand was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We always do conditioning anyway where you have to repeatedly kick for two minutes.
"So that's hard enough but they then decided to stick us in the sand pit. You can imagine how hard it is to even run, so trying to kick was so dif-ficult because you kept sinking and it kills your legs.
"It's all good fun though and I have definitely felt the benefits. When you train in the sand pit and get out it feels amazing."
Jones, who turned 21 in March, has also been enduring pain outside the ring after having her first tattoo on her ribs.
"It is of the Olympic rings but a lot of people just get those, so I wanted to make it a little bit more unusual and girly," she explained.
"My coach got one at the same time. I wanted to get a tattoo before the London Olympics but did not want to jinx myself.
"So we both said if I won an Olympic gold we would both get tattoos and he had one on his arm.
"It was very painful. Everyone had bigged it up to me about how much it was going to hurt. It was not as bad as I thought but I did keep looking at my watch and thinking 'get me out of here!' "It took just under an hour. It actually hurt more when it was fresh the next day and people were kicking it!" The tattoo will give Jones the constant reminder of her long-term goal of defending her Olympic title in Rio in 2016.
"The last two years have gone so rapidly," said Jones. "Although Rio is only two years away, everyone is thinking about the next Olympics and every competition is geared towards it."
Jade Jones' new Olympic tattoo
Jade Jones with her gold medal at the London Olympic Games