Jade Jones was just 19 when she won Olympic taekwondo gold at London 2012 to become Great Britain's first ever taekwondo Olympic Champion.
Jones followed it up with another gold at the German Open earlier this year before sustaining an injury which kept her out for a number of months.
Ahead of the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Prix, part of UK Sport's Gold Event Series, in Manchester next week (13-15 December), we spoke to Jade about the new series of events, her training and competing in Great Britain for the first time since London 2012.
How is training going?
I was out for quite a while with a back injury so I’ve only had three weeks full training, but those three weeks have been really productive. I’m happy with where I am compared to where me and the physios thought I would be.
The GB Taekwondo squad are based in Manchester, how important will this home advantage be at the World Taekwondo GP?
It really helped for the Olympics and that’s what made me do that little bit better I think because I was buzzing off the crowd. Hopefully loads of people will turn up and give us the same buzz that we got in the Olympics. This is the first taekwondo event that’s been held in Britain since the Olympics, so hopefully people will enjoy it just as much.
This is the first time you’ll be competing in Britain since the Olympics, how excited are you?
I’m really excited with it being the first Grand Prix, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s said to be the best ever taekwondo event in history with every Olympic medallist from London 2012 there, as well as all of the World Champions to fight.
How important are events like this in allowing you to compete consistently?
It gives you more opportunities to qualify for Rio 2016 rather than there being one competition where all of the pressure is. So if you’re consistent and pick up points in all of the competitions, then you can qualify.
Georgia Barnes, the Junior European Champion was given a wildcard entry into the Grand Prix. How important is it that younger fighters get the chance to compete in events like this?
It’s really important, it’s a big privilege really because in most of the other Grand Prix’s you don’t really get wildcards so it’s a great opportunity for the up-and-coming fighters and it will really help improve Georgia. She’s getting the opportunity to fight Olympic and World champions and you can’t get better experience than that.
You’re only 20 but you’re an Olympic champion. How do you feel about being a role model at such a young age?
I don’t really see myself as that young, only when people tell me that I’ve still got years and years left in the sport. I feel young sometimes in the ring when some of the older athletes know all of the tactics and what to do and I’ve still got a lot to learn.
Sarah Stevenson was at our WCPC13 in November talking about her transition from athlete to coach – is coaching something you’d be interested in at the end of your fighting career?
Yeah, definitely. I love taekwondo so it’d be amazing to pass on my knowledge and become a coach eventually. There are definitely more male coaches than female, so it’s great Sarah is showing that women can do that as well.
What’s 2014 got in store for you?
We’ve got the rest of the Grand Prix early next year and straight after we’ve got the French Open. The next major next year is the European Championships but before that we’ve got about eight competitions to get through!
How do you feel about this increase in competitions?
As a fighter, I rise for the big competitions. I don’t think I’ll do all of them because I prefer to peak at the big events, but as long as I remain in the top six, I don’t necessarily need to go to all of the competitions, but if I start to drop, then I’ll compete at a few more.