WRITTEN FOR TEAM 2012 VISA (ON FEB 17TH)
Last year, although still a student of the event, he captured three national titles and Commonwealth bronze in only his third full season and this summer, 110m hurdler Lawrence Clarke hopes to graduate on to the global senior scene, writes Nicola Bamford.
The prodigious European junior champion is aiming for an early twenty-first birthday present next month when he makes his Great Britain senior debut at the European indoor championships in Paris, following an injury-ravaged yet eye-catching past few months.
Guided by Malcolm Arnold at his Bath base, Clarke took British university, England senior and English under23 gold in 2010 but his campaign was capped off with Commonwealth bronze in Delhi last October.
A seven-time national medallist already, Clarke consolidated his UK outdoor bronze medal by completing the Team England medal-sweep in India behind European champion Andy Turner and he training partner Will Sharman, despite a freak injury shortly beforehand.
Tearing his hip flexor just minutes before the final, Clarke decided to bypass a warm-up to remarkably enjoy his first senior international piece of silverware in an impressive season which saw him move to twenty-second on the British all-time lists,
courtesy of a 13.69 lifetime best in France in July.
“I learnt a lot in 2010 and set really high targets for myself,” explains Clarke.
“I was happy with my races but also got injured at the end of July so that ruined my year and preparation for Delhi.
It was really disappointing but I did the best I could and I couldn’t have been happier – to run 13.7 with a bad injury set me up for the winter.”
In his final year studying theology and religious studies at Bristol University, Clarke is currently enjoying a rich vein of form despite having never planned to contest the indoor season.
After beginning his winter training late due to his big test in India, Clarke had intended to race from May onwards but a call-up to the Commonwealth Select team at the Aviva International in Glasgow last month brought a surprise 7.71 60m hurdles best.
Recently third Aviva European indoor trials and UK championships after again straining his hip flexor, Clarke will next take on Turner, the UK number-one at the Birmingham Grand Prix this weekend before heading to France in a bid to further establish himself on the international senior stage.
“Making the final would mean the world to me,” reveals Clarke.
“Andy’s not going so it will be the youngsters on the team which will be interesting. Essentially, I want to come out of the indoors with more experience for a good summer.”
Having spent a month-long warm-weather training stint in South Africa in January, Clarke will remain strictly at home prior to the outdoor season while he takes his final-year exams before an important summer on the track.
With an aim to win gold at the European under23 championships in Ostrava in July, Clarke also harbours aspirations on making the squad for the world championships in Daegu, South Korea the following month:
“I want to continue my victories in the European age-group championships and I don’t want to think of times, as if I medal there then I may have the qualifying time for the World senior’s,” Clarke explains.
Training alongside Sharman, the former World championship 110m hurdles fourth-placer, Clarke reveals how the talented group of sprint hurdlers in Malcolm’s stable is benefiting both his ability and education in his specialist event:
“The group’s incredibly strong - it’s like going to the national championship final every day.
It’s a little stressful and I feel the pressure but it shows you where you are.
Malcolm’s extremely happy and it’s great for us to have Dai (Greene, the European and Commonwealth 400m hurdle champion) so we can see how a world-class athlete works, it’s invaluable.
Dai’s a very good mentor and I can relate to Will – I’m constantly being pushed and the competition is really beneficial.”
Heir to a baronetcy which will one day see him become a Sir, Clarke is literally leaping the class barrier to make a name for himself in his own right - as a winner of titles rather than as an inheritor of one.
And with the 2012 Olympic Games fast-approaching, he is eager to embrace the opportunity for further growth:
“2012’s obviously always in the back of mind as everything’s measured towards that goal,” reveals Clarke.
“Having the Olympics in your home country will have only happened here three times in the last century and I’m in a position to compete for a place there so I won’t throw away the chance of a lifetime.
For me, it’s still a stepping-stone for 2016, really – I’m wary of peaking too soon and I’d like great longevity.
I don’t want to have the unfortunate luck of being too successful too young – I will use 2012 as the perfect experience to prime myself for the future.”
And if he continues to serve his hurdling apprenticeship at this current rate of progression, then Clarke will certainly make his ancestors proud.