JADE Jones, Team GB’s youngest gold medallist from London 2012, retained her Olympic taekwondo title with a thrilling win over Spain’s Eva Calvo Gomez.
The 23-year-old from Flint, north Wales, lifted coach Paul Green high in celebration after two stunning head kicks in the final round saw her to a 16-7 win over her -57kg rival.
That took Team GB’s medal haul to 56 - just nine short of equalling the British record set at London 2012. The 22 golds now won beats the previous best away Games total of 19 from Beijing and seven short of the mammoth amount won four years ago.
Jones had seen a six-point lead at the end of the first round cut to just one in the second before rising to the occasion to keep hold of the title she won as a teenager in 2012.
Jones’ triumph makes her only the third British woman to retain an individual Olympic title, after Charlotte Dujardin and Laura Trott, both of whom also succeeded in Rio this week.
But the Spanish former world No 1 presented a very different threat, and one which Jones admitted in the tournament build-up she had initially struggled to contain.
Calvo Gomez’s emergence in the wake of London 2012 coincided with a difficult period for Jones, who admitted she struggled for motivation having achieved her sport’s ultimate prize at such a young age. The self-proclaimed ‘Headhunter’ had become the ‘Headhunted’.
Jones lost her world No 1 ranking to the Spaniard, and two early defeats signalled a shift in power in the women’s featherweight division.
But that spurred Jones to work over-time with her best friend and team-mate, Bianca Walkden, in a bid to work out a way to combat Calvo Gomez’s height advantage.
The hard work paid off when Jones finally got the better of Calvo Gomez in the World Grand Prix final in 2014, a result which marked the Welsh athlete’s return to the top of her sport.
Jones said: “It feels unbelievable, I can’t really explain it.
“I didn’t realise how much pressure I would feel coming into this - even in the first few matches I just felt so pressured - so to pull it off... my coach is a psycho and it’s all down to him. The Great British team train so hard.
“I’m still young. I’m only 23 and I’m a double Olympic champion already so it’s crazy.
“Before the competition I’ve been crying in the sessions and you just can’t see it happening because you’re so stressed and training all the time.
“But I did it when it mattered and I’m buzzing.”
Jones went to Rio holding wins over Calvo Gomez in each of their last two meetings, but knowing she could ill afford to let her mind stray towards the prospective gold medal match-up.
She opened the defence of her title with a convincing win over Naima Bakkal of Morocco before two three-point head kicks helped her to a convincing success against Raheleh Asemani of Belgium.
In the semi-finals, Jones got the better of Sweden’s Nikita Glasnovic 9-4 to book her place in the seemingly inevitable showdown against her long-standing rival.
After a cagey opening minute Jones made a mockery of her opponent’s height advantage by flicking two quick head shots to storm into a six-point advantage at the end of the first round.
But it was the Spaniard’s turn to get the better of the second, and after dragging the deficit back to four points, a clever, close-quarters head shot cut the Briton’s lead to 7-6 going into the last.
After splitting the first two points of the final round Jones stepped up her advances, nailing two successive head shots to stroll into the history books with an emphatic 16-7 final scoreline.