Jade Jones is a vastly experienced athlete for just 21 years of age having been to two Paralympic Games, won Commonwealth Games bronze in Glasgow and claimed silver and bronze at the IPC Athletics European Championships back in 2014. And yet that’s only her credentials on the track where she mainly competes across 400m, 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m for Great Britain.
The Teessider has begun to stamp her mark over the marathon distance now too with this year’s performances seeing her set a personal best at the Boston Marathon before finishing the London Marathon in fifth place. That’s not all though! Her focus has recently turned to para-triathlon after deciding to pursue the sport following the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
She began swim training in November 2016 and has already made waves in para-triathlon by taking silver in her first World Paratriathlon Series event in Japan and following this up with a gold medal at the ETU Paratriathlon European Championships in Austria. She has made a relatively seamless transition into the sport while also preparing for the World Para Athletics Championships in London.
Jade, who has received a SportsAid award from Realbuzz this year having previously been supported by the charity in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, will return to the London Stadium to represent Great Britain in the T54 800m, 1,500m and 5,000m. The wheelchair racer is coached by 11-time Paralympic champion Baroness Grey-Thompson and her husband Ian who both helped get her into the sport.
Here, Jade mainly reflects on her achievements in para-triathlon so far while talking about her future ambitions for her sporting career with the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games on her radar....
You’ve made quite a start to your para-triathlon career! How did you feel after winning gold in the European Championships and silver in your first World Paratriathlon Series event?
“I'm so pleased with my result [winning gold in Austria]. The conditions were pretty tough. It rained from start to finish which made the visibility on the bike pretty hard but it was a really great learning experience for me. And Yokohama was amazing! It was my first ever triathlon so to come away with a silver medal was more than I could have ever expected.”
What made you decide to try out para triathlon? How have you found the sport so far?
“I've always wanted to have a go at a triathlon and after Rio I thought it was a good time to try something new. My transition into the sport has been really smooth which is completely down to the amazing staff and coaches at British Triathlon. They have given me so much support.”
Has the multi-sport training helped with your track performances? Breaking the 10,000m must have been special?
“The training has crossed over really well onto the track which is great. I have broken two British records so far this season and I came fifth in the London Marathon. Breaking the 10,000 British record was special. It was held previously by Tanni [Baroness Grey-Thompson] so it made it even more special to have the support of her and Ian all the whole way through it.”
How difficult have you found balancing your training between sports and distances?
“Wheelchair racing is a lot more like cycling and therefore we are able to compete over lots of different distances. The most difficult element is adding in the training that I've been doing for triathlon as it means I'm not doing as many sessions in my race chair, but it seems to all be working pretty well. The bike and chair really complement each other.”
How important has the influence of Tanni and Ian been on your career so far?
“Ian and Tanni have had a huge impact on my career. They have been there since day one. They introduced me to wheelchair racing when I was 12-years-old at a school sports day and have coached me ever since. They have such a wealth of experience as they have both had successful careers themselves so they are able to pass that down to me. I'm constantly learning from them!”
What are your future ambitions in sport? Will you look to compete on both the track and in para triathlon in Tokyo? What are you hoping to achieve over marathon distances?
“Tokyo is definitely the aim long-term. I hope to be able to combine track, road and triathlon. Short term I'm hoping to do the same at the Commonwealth Games in Australia next year as there will be a triathlon, 1,500m and marathon. I'm looking forward to gaining more experience in marathons. I haven't done many so over the next few years I want to do more of the world major marathons.”
How much of a difference does the support of SportsAid and Realbuzz make?
“The support I'm getting from SportsAid and Realbuzz is incredible. Paralympic sport is expensive due to the nature of the equipment needed so to have that support it makes a real difference. I also think it does a lot to raise the profile of Paralympic sport which in my eyes is always welcome!”
Lastly, what other commitments do you have outside of sport?
“I am currently in my second year at Teesside University studying law. It's pretty tough combining everything and finding time to make sure everything gets completed but having support from Teesside University and my friends and family makes it considerably easier.”
What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented athletes like Jade can continue receiving the support they rely on. Show your support for #SportsAidWeek 2017 by signing up to get involved today.