A THRILLING gold medal for Jade Jones at London 2012 inspired Lauren Williams’ unexpected taekwondo education.

Blackwood ace Williams and two-time Olympic champion Jones, from Bodelwyddan, were this week officially selected for Tokyo 2020 alongside Bianca Walkden, Bradly Sinden and Mahama Cho.

Williams, 22, first started out as a kickboxer but has vivid memories of watching Jones, 28, topple China’s Hou Yuzhuo 6-4 in a heart-thumping 2012 final from her family caravan while on holiday.

That experience got the fires burning and Williams, who soared to 67kg Grand Slam and Grand Prix glory in 2018, is eager to follow in her compatriot’s Games footsteps.

Williams said: “Before I did taekwondo I was a kickboxer – and I did that for 10 years.

“When I went on holiday with my parents in a caravan, we sat and watched the Olympics on TV. Jade was winning in the final at the time with about 10 seconds left – the points were getting higher and higher and it was getting really exciting.

“My dad turned to me and said: ‘is this something you’d want to do?’. I’d never seen the sport before – I was a kickboxer and didn’t really know what taekwondo was.

"I actually said no at the time, but taekwondo did a Fighting Chance scheme back in 2013 that encouraged athletes for different sports and backgrounds to come and try taekwondo.

“I tried it, gave it a go, my dad let me do my thing and I managed to beat the girls in front of me. My performance director saw talent and here I am today – I got selected and never looked back.”

Hotshot Williams enjoyed a serious medal streak in 2017 and 2018 as she racked up victory after victory to catapult herself into Tokyo contention.

She scooped Grand Prix gold, silver and bronze medals before going on to win the Grand Slam in Wuxi in her 67kg category.

Those results opened the door to Japan and after overcoming an injury scare in lockdown, Williams’ seat on the plane was secure, and she is already on a mission to inspire the next generation of talent.

Read more: Boxer Price looking at Olympic double, not turning pro

Read more: Newport boss Flynn to consider future after Wembley loss

The south Wales star, who lives and trains in Manchester, added: “I go back to my hometown quite frequently and see a lot of kids and youngsters that I used to teach look up to me.

"There are a generation of youngsters who aspire to be in this position – and it always reminds me of that 12-year-old me in the caravan looking up to Jade.

“I don’t realise that there are other youngsters in that position looking up to me now, and it’s really nice. To come back from the Games with a medal would be indescribable and make my whole family proud.”

For Jones, history beckons in Tokyo, but the double Olympic champion has no intention of taking her opposition for granted in her bid for a golden hat-trick.

She will bid to become the first ever fighter to claim three Olympic titles after being named in the Team GB line-up in the -57kg division.

The National Wales: Welsh taekwondo ace Jade Jones is chasing a third Olympic gold in TokyoWelsh taekwondo ace Jade Jones is chasing a third Olympic gold in Tokyo

She won gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016 before being crowned world champion in 2019, making her a clear favourite to top the podium at her third Games.

But Jones, who also clinched her third European title in Sofia earlier this year, insists there is no such thing as a sure bet in a sport as unpredictable as taekwondo.

“Nobody is a dead cert, it is going to be a tough competition, but I believe I can do it on my day, so it’s just about making sure it’s my day,” she said.

“I definitely feel the pressure and it’s obviously a pressure I put on myself, going into this third Olympics and thinking I could make history if I win but I’m not stupid.

"I know how tough the other opponents are and it’s just about me going there and doing the best I can and then what will be will be. I’ve kind of tried to lower my expectations.

“We don’t know what it’s going to be like [in Tokyo], if I get my hopes up and think it’s going to be like the other ones then I might be let down. I’ll just go there with an open mind.”

Nicknamed ‘The Headhunter’ because she prefers to score points from her opponent’s head, Jones completed her illustrious taekwondo CV with her first world title in 2019.

She spent lockdown living with her best friend and fellow Tokyo-bound taekwondo team-mate Bianca Walkden and Walkden’s boyfriend Aaron Cook, a three-time European champion.

And while she acknowledged that everything about the Tokyo Games will be different owing to Covid restrictions, Jones is confident her desire for gold will help her overcome any hurdles.

“It’s going to be different as I’m used to all my family being there and I’m a big game player, I like the crowd and the energy to get me to that next level, but we’re just lucky it’s on,” she added.

“I have to take that and the fact that I want to win gold so much, that will be put to the back of my head and now I’m just thinking of bringing that gold home and enjoying it after the Games.

“You think it [winning gold before] would [take the pressure off] but you always want more don’t you? Now I’ve got there, I’ve had it in the bag for ages and now I want to win this one.

“Different people have different stories and at least I’ve ticked everything off, but I’ll give it everything I’ve got to get this third gold and then be proud of myself.”

The Olympic Games in Tokyo can be watched live on discovery+.