Jade Jones leaps back into taekwondo action this week as GB Taekwondo sends a powerful squad to compete at the World Taekwondo Federation President’s Cup in Athens.
The double Olympic gold medallist hasn’t competed since ending a memorable 2016 with victory over Hedaya Malak in the World Grand Prix final last December.
Welsh star Jones, who celebrated her 24th birthday last month, then took time out to participate in celebrity ski jumping show, The Jump.
Escaping unscathed, the Welsh star has now turned her attention to preparing for the World Championships in Muju, South Korea in June-the only major title missing from her collection.
“I’m not putting any pressure on myself because I have only been back in full training for about a month,” says Jones ahead of tomorrow’s (Thursday) test. “It’s mainly all about getting match practice for the World Championships.
“But I don’t go anywhere to lose.” Jones admits she struggled for motivation after her becoming Britain’s first taekwondo Olympic champion in 2012.
This time it feels different for the reigning European champion. “I have had a good enough break and this time I feel ready to come back myself.
“I don’t have anything to prove after defending my Olympic title and so it’s all about enjoying the competition.”
Jones from Flint is one of four British competitors taking to the mats on day one of the four-day event in the Greek capital, fighting at -57kg.
The London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic champ is joined by three up and coming male prospects: Max Cater, Josh Calland and Bradly Sinden.
Cater has already won the German Open title this year and finished runner-up in the opening President’s Cup event held in Morocco. Sinden also medalled in Morocco.
Day two features world champion and Rio 2016 bronze medallist, Bianca Walkden, and European champion, Lauren Williams, returning to competition.
Liverpudlian heavyweight Walkden (+73kg) has been more active than housemate Jones in 2017, winning gold at the German Open and silver at the Dutch Open.
Welsh teenager Williams achieved the same colour combination at the same events at -67kg, But GB Taekwondo’s most successful fighter since last year’s Olympics is arguably -68kg contender, Peter Longobardi-Radford.
Since entering the GB Academy in Manchester last summer, the youngster, who competes with British and Italians heritage, has blazed a glory trail across Europe winning in Belgium, Holland, Germany, France and Serbia.
Longobardi-Radford fights on Saturday with Christian McNeish, Jade Slavin and Rachelle Booth closing the tournament with their competitions on Sunday.
Thursday, April 27
-58kg: Max Cater (Southampton), -63kg: Josh Calland (Liverpool)
-63kg: Bradly Sinden (Doncaster).
-57kg: Jade Jones (Flint)
Friday, April 28:
-67kg: Lauren Williams (Newport, Gwent)
+73kg: Bianca Walkden (Liverpool)
Saturday, April 29:
-68kg: Peter Longobardi-Radford (Rye)
Sunday, April 30:
-74kg: Christian McNeish (Plaistow)
-62kg: Rachelle Booth (Wigan)
-73kg: Jade Slavin (Consett)