Extraordinary Jones will bend over backwards with effort to do Wales proud in London
Gary Baker on 26/03/2012
Not every athlete in Britain has a sculpture of themselves in action at the gateway to the Olympic Games.
But Welsh Commonwealth Games rhythmic gymnastics silver medallist Francesca Jones (photo by Steve Pope) had such an honour this year when artist Eleanor Cardozo created a three-metre high carbon fibre resin depiction of the 21-year-old bending backwards while twirling a ribbon.
It was a honour that Jones was amazed at and hopes will help her sport gain recognition in the build-up towards London 2012.
Jones lives in Northampton, trains in Birmingham but competes for Wales through her father Colin's roots in Pontypool, where he still has family.
And she said it was amazing to see herself depicted at Terminal Five of Heathrow Airport, where other sculptures have included one of teenage diving sensation Tom Daley.
She said: "It was quite a surprise to me and I would never have thought of it. I heard of it through my programme manager who told me. Now I just hope it helps the sports reputation to have everyone walking past it at the airport."
Cardozo could have picked on any sport and any athlete to use as a subject for the sculpture but the fact that she chose Jones just proves how far the Welsh ace has come in her sport.
She was not one of the team group that was given an Olympic Games reprieve this month as she competes individually in rhythmic gymnastics.
But her exhausting dedication of training often six to seven days a week for five to seven hours has seen her mantelpiece at home littered with golden honours and silver trophies.
Jones is a five-times British rhythmic gymnastics champion and took her silver medal in the hoop discipline at the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.
The sport is much different to the traditional apparatus-based gymnastics that involves such things as a balance beam, vaulting horse and uneven bars.
Rhythmic is based around the floor exercises but incorporates the use of a ball, ribbon, rope or a hoop to demonstrate the athlete's skills.
Jones has taken just eight years to perfect herself in the sport and come from a virtual beginner to the brink of the biggest stage of them all.
She added: "I always had the Commonwealth Games (Delhi) in my mind and I always set my sights on small goals - but now they are set on the Olympics.
"I've heard very good reviews about the venue. We have just had the Test Event in January but it wasn't at the O2 Arena where the gymnastics is taking place but at Wembley so I haven't seen the arena yet."
Jones won't find out for certain if she is in the British team but, with such a stunning record, it is as guaranteed as anything can be that her name will be on the list.
And although she has never set foot in the town of her father - Pontypool - she is proud to represent Wales.
Jones added: "I went there with my dad in the car once when I was competing in Cardiff just so he could show me where the family was from. I love Wales. It is so beautiful."
So everyone in the town more famous for its' legendary rugby team will have a hero to support in the Olympics
But are the nerves excitement kicking in yet? "It's a bit of both," she said.
If she wins a medal against the toughest opposition possible in the London Olympics, then perhaps Eleanor Cardozo can donate that sculpture to Pontypool and see it stand in their famous Park. Now that would make Colin Jones proud!
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