Jade Jones admits to be being “petrified” her Olympic dream could be snatched away by coronavirus, writes Alex Spink in Tokyo.
The taekwondo champion of London and Rio is bidding to become the first British female Olympian to strike gold at three consecutive Games.
Cyclist Laura Kenny, rower Helen Glover and equestrian star Charlotte Dujardin are also vying for the historic landmark.
But with Jones’ event moved from the back of the schedule in Rio five years ago to the front here in Tokyo, she has first shot at it – as long as she can stay healthy.
“I know I can win, I’ve definitely got the talent and everything I need to get that gold,” the Welsh star said yesterday.
“The hardest bit is being petrified you’re going to test positive. I’ve had the vaccines, I had Covid in January, so it’s highly unlikely.
“But a positive test would mean you’re out, game over. To have your Olympic dream depend on that is scary.”
A week out from the opening ceremony Tokyo reported 1,308 new cases, its highest daily total since late January.
IOC president Thomas Bach claims risk both for athletes and the Japanese people is “zero”, citing three positives in more than 8,000 tests.
But the fate of South Africa’s rugby sevens team has everyone on alert.
The Blitzboks were forced to move to a designated quarantine hotel after a passenger on their flight tested positive.
They themselves have returned negative results but they could be forced to remain in isolation for 14 days and miss their competition.
“We’ve all got paranoia around Covid,” said Jones’ training partner, Bianca Walkden. “Our masks are on all the time no matter what. If one person sneezes, we are all like, “What the hell is going on?”
Even for those taking every precaution the fear is getting pinged as a close contact, as half a million in the UK have this week, and seeing your dream turn to dust.
“I constantly wear a mask and my hands are raw from the amount of hand gel I’ve been putting on,” said Jones. “We walk in single file to training, literally a traffic system so no-one comes near us
“Where we have our meal there’s a sticker on the table saying ‘keep conversation to a minimum’. I’m quite anti-social anyway so that actually works well for me!”
On sporting merit alone she is in a class of her own and has been since becoming her sport’s first British Olympic champion at London 2012.
“Jade goes hard every day and deserves everything,” said Walkden, a triple world champion in her own right. “She truly believes in herself and has that fire at the Olympics.
“I would bet on her to become a triple champion and bring it back to the house we share.”
THE RACE TO HISTORIC GOLDEN HAT-TRICK
Sunday Jul 25: Jade Jones (taekwondo) -57kg final
Tuesday Jul 27: Helen Glover (rowing) Women’s Pairs final
Tuesday Jul 27: Charlotte Dujardin (equestrian) Dressage team final (individual on 28th)
Tuesday Aug 3: Laura Kenny (cycling) Team pursuit, Women’s Madison (Aug 6), Omnium (Aug 8).