Mike Rowbottom

No sooner had Jade Jones won her taekwondo gold at the European Games last night than she was reflecting upon her growing collection of significant victories – and looking hungrily ahead to the two remaining boxes she needed to tick (world, European) in order to consider herself a “legend of the sport”.

It’s not just Usain Bolt who gets to shoot for that prize.

Good on the girl. All day long at the Baku Crystal Hall, Britain’s Olympic champion showed a tenacity that had been renewed by her surprising defeat in the quarter-finals at the World Championships last month. Against Hungary’s Edina Kotsis in her quarter-final here she was behind on points until the last 30 seconds – indeed, this was when she began her own scoring.

As those who know the taekwondo scene just a little better than me have averred in the last few days, Jones is like a kind of primal force in the ring.

Even when she attended a press point in the Athletes' Village on Sunday morning the intensity of her ambition was obvious.

Reflecting on last month’s world championship quarter-final defeat by Spain’s Eva Calvo Gomez, who took bronze here, Jones commented: “It gives you that fire in your belly and I’ll learn from that competition because I’ve never really had a defeat like that before and I DO NOT want that to happen again.

“Because I’m Olympic champion everyone just assumes I’m this perfect athlete that should never lose. But I’m still young, I still don’t even know the game fully, I haven’t got it perfected, mentally it’s a big thing, and I’m improving with that all the time.”

If she’s right – and who would gainsay it? – then she is going to end up with an extraordinary collection of medals. Which is how she is measuring her career.

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Jade Jones shows off her European Games taekwondo gold. Two down, two to go...©Getty Images

Jones’s latest top-of-the-podium  moment occurred on a sad day for world athletics as one of its greats, Australian runner Ron Clarke, died aged 78 in the Allamanda hospital on the Gold Coast, his adopted home and the region he served as Mayor from 2004-2012.

During that time he was a persuasive advocate in favour of the Gold Coast’s ultimately successful bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and it is sad indeed that he has not lived to see the return to his home patch of the competition at which he enjoyed the main part of his success – in terms of medals.

Clarke is a legend in the sport. He has won an Olympic bronze medal.

That of course is a huge achievement – but it does not usually guarantee a position in the sporting pantheon.

The reason Clarke was so revered was that people could see quite clearly he was the best of his time – whether he converted that into gold medals or not.

He won 10,000 metres bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and four years later in Mexico he ran himself to a state of agonised collapse in the rarified atmosphere as he finished sixth in a 10,000m race won by Kenya’s Naftali Temu. To the day he died, he could never remember anything of the last lap.

The pictures of the Australian team doctor agonising over Clarke as he held an oxygen mask over his face went all around the world, and that image remains an indelible one in the history of the sport.

The powerful, barrel-chested runner was reported to have been near death and it emerged  that he had also suffered heart damage which would have an impact on his health in later years.

Two days later he lined up for the heats of the 5,000m and qualified for the final, where he finished fifth in a race won by another African runner, Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia.

So much for the “failures” – although some would characterise his efforts in Mexico as the polar opposite of failure.

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Australia's team doctor applying an oxygen mask to Ron Clarke at the 1968 Mexico Olympics after the great Australian athlete, who died on Wednesday, had run himself into a state of collapse ©Getty Images

What was it that earned Clarke his reputation? Well, among myriad other things, the 17 world records he set.

In 1965 he undertook a 44-day European tour, competing 18 times and breaking 12 world records, including the 20,000m. At the White City Stadium he became the first man to run three miles in under 13 minutes, lowering the world record to 12min 52.4sec.

Four days after that, in Oslo, the Australian took the 10,000m event into a new area, becoming the first man to run it in under 28 minutes as he clocked 27:39.4, a record which stood for more than five years until Lasse Viren managed to chip a second off it in winning the 1972 Olympic title in Munich.

It was a similar story in the 5,000m where, in 1966, Clarke bettered the mark of 13: 24.2 set by his longtime friend and rival Kip Keino of Kenya, setting a record of 13:16.6 which lasted more than six years until Viren, again, hunted it down in 1972 with 13:16.4.

Given how he transformed the events in which he took part, and how painstakingly he worked on any potential weaknesses, it was a strange and at times cruel irony that he would finish without a single gold medal to show for it from any major championship.

Apart from his Olympic bronze, he won silver in the three miles event at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and added two more silvers at the Commonwealths of 1966 in Kingston, Jamaica.

In 1970 he came to Edinburgh aged 33 and looking for a last go at gold. Again, he had to settle for another silver in the 10,000m in the Meadowbank Stadium as he came home in the wake of a wiry little dental technician from the Vale of Leven, Lachie Stewart.

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Ron Clarke's last championship bid for a gold in Edinburgh's 1970 British Commonwealth Games 10,000m final. He took silver behind Scotland's Lachie Stewart (right) ©Hulton/Getty Images

Clarke’s Olympic connection began in 1956, when, as a promising 19-year-old athlete who had narrowly missed selection for his home Games in Melbourne, he was chosen to light the Olympic Cauldron.

That same year Clarke was passively involved in a memorable act of sporting chivalry.

During the 1956 Australian mile championship he tripped and fell, and John Landy, then world record holder, doubled back and helped the young runner to his feet before going on to win the race. Many observers felt he could have bettered his world mark of 3:58.00 had he ignored his fallen companion.

Twelve years later, Clarke provoked yet another selfless act.

In 1968, Emil Zatopek, the Czech who had won the 10,000m title at the 1948 London Olympics and an extraordinary triple of the 5000,m, 10,000m and marathon at the 1952 Helsinki Games, invited Clarke to visit his home.

When Clarke left, Zatopek handed him a package which he asked him not to open until he got home. When Clarke did so, he discovered Zatopek’s 1952 10,000m gold medal.