From track to triathlon: Jones eager to back up European title with World success
Becoming European champion mere months after taking up a new sport is something few can lay claim to.
Except, that is, for Jade Jones, who did exactly that despite first tasting paratriathlon less than a year ago.
Having competed on the track at the last two Paralympic Games, Jones decided to try paratriathlon after watching the sport make its Paralympic debut in Rio.
She started swim training in November, and cycling in December, before going on to win silver on her debut at the World Paratriathlon Series in Japan in May – less than a month after finishing fifth at the London Marathon.
But that wasn’t the end of the 21-year-old’s whirlwind start to her new sport, going on to clinch the European crown in Kitzbuhel a month later.
Yet Jones insists there is still plenty of room for improvement, particularly in her weaker disciplines, though she is relishing every second of her new challenge.
“I’d wanted to try triathlon for quite some time. My coach works with British Triathlon and coaches the wheelchair racers,” Jones said.
“For a while, I’d known what they were about and was quite interested in doing it, so after Rio I knew it was a good time with four years until the next Paralympics.
“At first it was really hard, I’d done handcycling before but swimming was completely new to me.
“I would really like to win a medal, but at the same time, I do have to realise that I’ve been in the sport for less than a year." Jade Jones
“I went into the European Championships and had no pressure, which was really nice because I haven’t had that for a long time.
“I’m still getting used to the whole race environment in triathlon, as it is a bit different to athletics.
“Rather than one, there are three elements in which things can go wrong, as well as the transitions. There is a lot more to think about, but I quite like that.”
Next up for Jones is the small task of Friday’s World Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam, where she has the opportunity to add a World Championship title to her collection.
That, she admits, will be her greatest challenge to date, as she prepares to line up with the world’s finest paratriathletes, many of whom she has not yet faced.
But that’s not to say Jones is fazed by the battle that lies ahead – she’s determined to enjoy the experience to the full, although she’s still eyeing a podium finish.
“Winning the Europeans has filled me with confidence heading to the World Championships, but at the same time, I’m a bit nervous,” she added.
“Although I really enjoy being the underdog, I don’t really feel that I am anymore.
“I would really like to win a medal, but at the same time, I do have to realise that I’ve been in the sport for less than a year.
“I think I would be disappointed if I don’t medal, but you do have to sit back sometimes and realise how far you’ve come.
“Just to be competing at the World Championships is really great, but of course, I would like a medal.”