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Olympian Oshae Jones recalls escaping house fire before Tokyo: 'I almost died'

The bronze medalist lost her boxing equipment in the flames, but she made it out with her life — and the Olympic opportunity of a lifetime.
/ Source: TODAY

Oshae Jones earned a bronze for Team USA after the women’s welterweight semifinals Wednesday, but that medal doesn’t simply cap off her Olympic journey. It also serves as a reminder of how far the 23-year-old has come.

That’s because she won that bronze medal just two months after nearly losing her life.

Although Oshae Jones lost against China's Gu Hong after their women's welter (64-69kg) semifinal boxing match on Aug. 4, Jones still wins a bronze medal for reaching the semifinals.Buda Mendes / Pool via AFP via Getty Images

Back in May, days before learning she’d compete in Tokyo, her home in Toledo, Ohio, caught fire.

“When I was in the fire, I almost died,” she told TODAY’s Craig Melvin Friday. “Basically, as soon as I got out, my room collapsed — right where I was at.”

While she made it out alive, she lost nearly everything she owned, including all of her boxing equipment.

It was all part of what she called “an emotional rollercoaster,” because after the low point of that tragedy, she found herself soaring high from some good news.

“Five days later, I got a call saying I was going to be representing the United States of America,” she recalled with a smile. “So it was just like, ‘What am I going to do next? What am I even going to wear there?’ It was just a blessing.”

A blessing that’s put her in the record books. This is the first year women’s welterweight boxing has been included in the Olympic Games, and as such, she’s the first to ever medal for Team USA in the event.

“I think this means a lot for women’s boxing,” she explained. “I think I’m getting more exposure to women’s boxing, getting the sport more known. I’m letting the women know that we can do the same thing that males do, but maybe even better.”

Jones exchanged punches with Gu of Team China during the women's welter semifinal.Harry How / Getty Images

That seems to be a fitting message given what inspired her to get into the ring in the first place.

“I got into boxing because I was always in competition with my little brother,” Jones revealed. “I always wanted to do what he did. He used to wrestle; I wanted to wrestle. He wanted to box; I wanted to box. ... I always wanted to be better than my brother.”

And now she has an Olympic medal to show for it.