A new Jordanian high performance programme inspired by Ahmad Abughaush's gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, has set the country on course for their best Olympics yet in 2020 ©Getty Images

Jordan hopes to be on course for their most successful Summer Olympics and Paralympics yet at Tokyo 2020 thanks to a new national strategy for sport which has transformed the country's set-up. 

The Middle Eastern nation won their first Olympic medal of any colour at Rio 2016 and have now had their most successful Asian Games to date in Jakarta and Palembang, where the country with a population of around nine-and-a-half million people won 12 medals in all, including two golds. 

In an interview with insidethegames, Jordan Olympic Committee (JOC) secretary general Nasser Majali said the taekwondo gold won at Rio 2016 by Ahmad Abughaush had "brought attention" to sport in the country and helped spur further development. 

"The medal sent out a message," Majali said.

"It sent out, 'yes we can, we can compete on the biggest stage'.

"Especially in individual sports and that there should be further investment in that.

"We have the raw material, the question is do we have the right system to nurture that and turn them into medallists?"

Prior to the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Jordan had no official strategy for achieving sporting success, which Majali recognises could have seen Abughaush "lost in the system".

Following Rio though, it was decided to create a new system to ensure the gold medal would not be a one-off.

That decision culminated in a large meeting by the Dead Sea in January 2017, during which a 16-year programme was launched. 

"It's a full restructure, a full rebirth," said Majali.

"The true main goal is to re-prioritise sports and put it on the national agenda."

In the two years since Rio, Jordan's new strategy has seen, among other things, the creation of an Olympic Preparation Centre run by Princess Zeina Rashid, a two-time table tennis Olympian, and Ali Al-Asmar, who won a bronze in taekwondo at the 2002 Asian Games, on behalf of the JOC. 

"It's like a national sports centre," said Majali.

"It's a high performance training centre that has its own restaurant and nutritionist, has its own medical bay and sports therapists, has its own entertainment area for the athletes and a rest area.

"It has a gym and its own training professionals, it has a dorm, and it has its own training room."

The Centre was up and running by September 2017 and it is hoped it will help lead Jordan to their largest team in history at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

"The maximum [previously] was five [athletes]," Majali said.

"We are aiming to at least triple that."

As a guide to what impact the new system is having, targets were set to take the most athletes in history to the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires next month and to win the most medals at an Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.

"Goal number two and three have been achieved," said Majali.

"We've qualified 12 athletes for the Youth Olympics, up from two, from swimming, karate, and taekwondo, we have a 3x3 basketball team in there and we have an equestrian athlete."

Ahmad Abughaush's gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics has inspired the Jordan Olympic Committee to push for further success at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
Ahmad Abughaush's gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics has inspired the Jordan Olympic Committee to push for further success at Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

Meanwhile, 12 medals at the 2018 Asian Games is four more than their previous best tally of eight from 2006.

All of their medals at this year's Games came in sports now being housed in the new Olympic Preparation Centre, namely taekwondo, karate, boxing and ju-jitsu.

The latter is not an Olympic sport but was incorporated into the new Centre to help prepare for the Asian Games. 

Long term, Majali hopes the new system can create "national heroes", thereby helping inspire more young people to take up sport. 

"We want sports to re-enter into schools in Jordan," he said.

"In the 70s, 80s and early 90s sports were a major part of the curriculum.

"Sadly, since the economic recession and the refugee situation, schools have had to do shifts."

Majali explained how pressure on the timetable due to a rising number of students led to sport being largely sidelined in recent years.

He said that as well as helping create more Olympic success in the short term, long term he hopes the programme will inspire a "re-birth" of passion for sport across the whole country.

"Our main goal is to push for an organic system, by building proper Olympic values within the schools and have a re-birth for the sports class in schools," he said.

"It's a two sided thing.

"It's creating national heroes, for our kids to start demanding that and for their parents to start demanding that their kids be part of that programme.

"We've decided to create a top down strategy."

Officially, the JOC's annual budget is $15 million (£11.6 million/€13 million) with, according to Majali, $2 million (£1.5 million/€1.7 million) being spent on the new high performance programme. 

Some of that, he said, has been provided by the International Olympic Committee's Solidarity Commission, while the Olympic Council of Asia helped create the dorms in the Olympic Preparation Centre. 

"This [figure] includes everything," Majali added.

"For example if I have a taekwondo athlete, we cover his daily food, breakfast, lunch and dinner, we cover his transportation to and from the Centre, we give support for his education and we also try to find jobs for the athletes who require jobs.

"At the same time we spend on all the travel to the different tournaments that are within our plan for that athlete, to lead towards his Olympic preparation and Olympic qualification."

The next significant event on Jordan's road to Tokyo 2020 will be the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, which will start in Buenos Aires on October 6 and run until October 18.