Almost every parent that has ever lived is or was proud of their children, but how does it feel to have one of your children exceed all expectations you have of them? Most parents expect their children to find a good job, settle down, and start a family, but how many can say that their child has won two Olympic gold medals and is widely considered to be one of the best competitors in their sports history?
Gary Jones, 50, can inform us how it feels as his daughter, Jade Jones, has had an illustrious career in taekwondo, winning two Olympic gold medals, is a three-time European champion, and in 2019 was declared champion of the world when she beat the South Korean, Lee Ah-reum, in Manchester.
When I walked up to Gary’s front door, it was immediately apparent to me that the success of his daughter has not changed him as a person, he still lives in the ex-council house that has been his home for his entire life, and the front drive of his home is strewn with labourers equipment.
In fact he spends his days working as a scrapman for half of the year, and as a cockler during the rest of the year, when its more viable. The working class life he lives and Jade’s upbringing is what has forged her into the fighter she is today, and reminds him of his younger self.
“It’s the background she has come off, because she wasn’t the best of kids but she had a lovely mum and dad, and in those days there wasn’t much rent money around or anything and I think she has put that aggression into her fighting,” he says. “I was always in trouble, just wanted a fight, but she took it professional and into the ring while I would’ve been locked up and I suppose what goes off the cat goes into the kittens and its definitely gone into Jade.”
His and his family’s influence on Jade doesn’t just stop at upbringing and possibly inherited lust for violence, but also in a more direct approach specifically from Gary and her grandad. They both encouraged her into different sports due to her unruly nature as a young girl, even trying her hand at other sports before she took to taekwondo.
“Me and her grandad jumped in a put her to a sport because she was a bit troublesome, naughty, you know different things. We took her to different sports, swimming she couldn’t take to, and some others, then taekwondo.
“She just loved punching people and she had an aggression for the sport in her.”
But he didn’t always believe that taekwondo was a viable career path for Jade, instead wanting her to go into higher education, rather than risk her future by trying to join an industry with a very high barrier of entry which he believes would be harder for the family being Welsh.
“It’s a low catch sport and when I used to watch her I thought, where are you going with this? Where’s you’re future going with this? You’re just going to the gym, and I know it’s discipline and all that but you need to get to college.
“They wouldn’t fund her because she isn’t from England, if you’re not from England you don’t get funded, and when she won the youth Olympics they jumped in saying ‘We want Jade.’”
His mind began to change when her success in the sport started to become undeniable, and her granddad pushed Gary to watch her and see her skills for himself.
“I started to believe when she done the youth Olympics, won that, then she was in the academy in Manchester and the journey started to the London Olympics, where she won gold and it was unbelievable.
“Her grandad was telling us ‘you have to watch her, she’s flying’ you know, and when she went to the London Olympics she was 16 to one on the bookies, I’ll never forget it and I just thought ‘god bless her.’”
And since the success of his daughter he struggles to fully comprehend what has happened to him, her, and the rest of their family, emotionally stating “Honestly she has made her grandad, her nana and the rest of us so proud… sometimes I’m just driving along, and I start thinking ‘how has she got two gold medals?’
Gary was eager not to take all the credit himself, believing something superstitious may be at play, as many sporting icons have hailed from Flintshire, such as Welsh footballing legends, Ian Rush, Gary Speed, and Michael Owen, with more yet to come.
“Ian Rush is from this avenue and he used to come around and say hiya to the kids and all that, so two famous people have come from this avenue with Jade and Ian, so maybe there will be a third, it’s like there something in the water.”