Monday, 29 July 2013

Daily Mail 24th July 2013


Lawrence Clarke goes over to the boot of his car to show me a couple of black silk top hats and, in  passing, a pair of Gucci loafers nestled among fluorescent athletics kit.

The day we meet he is pulling on his tailcoat ahead of lunch in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. In our 21st century world, it is said that one of the last class distinctions is between those who own their own morning suits and those who hire them, and Clarke is decidedly in the former camp. So much so, that the man who finished fourth in the 110 metres hurdles at London 2012 is sponsored by Gieves & Hawkes, outfitters to the quintessentially English.

Charles Lawrence Somerset Clarke, heir to the Baronetcy of Dunham Lodge held by his father Sir Tobias Clarke, must be the poshest man in sport. And in an era when some people - from the Chancellor of the Exchequer down - are busy Estuarising their English, he speaks as if he has got the Elgin Marbles stuck in his throat.
Not surprising, given that his uncle is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the free-spirited Conservative backbencher so renowned for his Edwardian manner that he is affectionately known as 'The Honourable Member for the Early 20th Century'. Latin quotations, as well as the word 'floccinaucinihilipilification', trip off his privileged tongue.

Clarke, like Rees-Mogg, is an Old Etonian, from a long line of Old  Etonians. The names of his forebears are recorded on the walls of the College as Oppidan or King's Scholars. 'I am pleased I went to Eton,' he says. 'It is a wonderful school. It is producing some people who are at an outstanding level academically, and highly driven, highly motivated in other walks of life.

'At Eton there are no prizes for coming second - literally, you do not get a silver medal in athletics. It makes you work hard. And boys who are not the most academically gifted can try to be the best in some other facet of school life, as I did with sport.
'Now Eton is taking on the running of an academy, and that is great. That will allow other people to get the opportunity I was lucky enough to get, intellectually, socially, in sport, in arts, whatever.
'I would like to see the return of grammar schools. None of the last few governments has got it to work how they would want it to.'

He talks affectionately, and encyclopaedically, of his family. His great-grandmother was Elfrida Roosevelt, making him first cousin, four times removed from Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, and second cousin, four times removed from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd.

His heritage on both sides of the Atlantic, plus a link to pioneering gold mining in Africa, shapes his outlook. 'All my family have worked hard, creating something for themselves,' he explains. 'I am appreciative of the chances I have been given but I want to achieve  something for myself - win titles rather than just inherit one.

'I like the way it is in the States. Here people can begrudge people success or money or a better car; in America they say, "What can I do to have a better car as well?" In Britain we live by the politics of envy; in America they live by the politics of aspiration. Athletics is a pure meritocracy. I cannot get into a final on the basis of who my father is.'

Clarke, 23, is a member of the training group at Bath run by the septuagenarian sage of British  hurdling, Malcolm Arnold. The group includes 400m world hurdles champion Dai Greene, hewn from the Welsh valleys and earthier than the tweed-wearing OE. Greene ribs Clarke for having God Save the Queen on his iPod. The banter is softened by the fact that Clarke does not take himself too seriously.
He only took up athletics properly in his last year at Eton, an echo of Lord Burghley, the Sixth Marquess of Exeter and real-life hero of  Chariots of Fire, who only started running after going up to Cambridge.
'I saw Burghley's name everywhere at Eton. I looked him up. He was a friend of my grandfather and the archetypal amateur.'

Clarke, who is studying for a  Masters in management and finance from this autumn, has been asked to recreate the apocryphal scene of Burghley jumping over hurdles with champagne glasses on top of them - in real life it was matchboxes - but does not wish to do so until he has replicated  Burghley's own achievements.
Progress towards that summit is proving slower this season than he had hoped, having broken his wrist in training and twice torn a  hamstring. But on Saturday he will be back in the Olympic Stadium displaying the stoic, stiff upper lip of the English aristocracy.
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Monday, 25 June 2012

Next stop London 2012!!!!

Yesterday I achieved an automatic qualification place at the Aviva Olympic Trials to the XXXth Olympiad in London. The past few years have been a crazy mix of pain and jubilation. In 2008, the last Olympic year, I was 63rd in the UK with a personal best of 15.3 seconds for the 110m hurdles. That is now but a memory and I am running consistent 13.3s which tops the UK ranking lists for this year so far.

It is a dream come true to make the Olympic Games. I remember when London was announced as the host city back in 2005 and I thought how amazing it would be. I never believed I might contend a place to be there but it shows what can happen with a bit of luck, patience and an coach with the right knowledge. Malcolm Arnold, now Malcolm Arnold OBE for his services to Athletics, took me on in November 2008 when I was but a sapling of my current ability and stature. What he saw in me must have been seen with such an innate talent that I am sure all bookies would dream of having the foresight he has! Jason Gardener, my mentor, introduced me to Malcolm after my mother and I met him back in September 2008 and I am indebted to him for that.

Racing with the people I respect the most and have inspired me: William Sharman (L) and Andy Turner (R)

For me personally the Olympic Games will be the biggest moment of my life to date and will bring together the dedication, sacrifice, hard-graft and ambition that I have had burning in me since I was young boy. I have dreamt of being alongside athletes like Andy Turner and being able to challenge for the same ideals and prizes that my heroes of Colin Jackson and David Burghley aspired to and achieved. I hope that I will be able to do proud all those who have supported me this far.

The one thing I hope never to forget is what one of my relations said:

"Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground." - Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, 27 February 2012

Istanbul World Indoors 2012

Although I will not be there, I will do a preview of the World Indoors soon. Keep a eye out!!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Winter Update

So I was handed this video by the Team GB biomechanic this week. It shows my race at the world champs in Daegu quite well so I thought I would share it.

The 2012 season training began in the first week of October and has been going well. I've recovered from the hamstring injuries I had during the past season so I'm really looking forward to the indoor season which begins at the end of January for me. I'm training so much harder this year and don't have the distractions of university anymore. It is so much easier to focus when running is the only thing on the mind.

Here in Britain the pressure on all of us to focus on London 2012 is building day by day but I love it. I have so much motivation at the moment so I can't wait for next year. We had a talk for Team GB last night by Michael Johnson who told us about all the pressures and expectations on athletes at a home Olympic Games. He said as long as we stick to our plans and are sensible, notably staying injury free, we will have a cracking chance to do well. Everyone is counting the days to selection on July 2nd 2012....if I keep it real I think I have a good chance of being competitive come selection day!

Over and out.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Daegu: post Competition

I competed on the weekend and unfortunately didn't make it through from the heats with my time of 13.65 (-0.2ms). The winner of my heat was Jason Richardson, the newly Crowned World Champion.

me in the heats

It was an amazing atmosphere on the night of the final, and I was lucky to get some seats on the finish line. The semi-finals were a clear demonstration of the abilities of Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang and Jason Richardson. It is unfortunate that the final turned out to be a bit of a fiasco with Robles and Xiang clashing arms, resulting in Xiang losing the lead and Robles being disqualified, handing the Gold to Richardson who was originally second. The race was a clear example of pressure affecting the athletes. The time wasn't all that special, and the medals were won in some of the slowest times ever for a world championships. Colin Jackson's Championship Record of 12.91 was not going to be in jeopardy with the strong headwind that they all had to contend with.

I watched them all warm up and it was interesting to watch who was relaxed and how everyone went about their preparation. Xiang was so relaxed and his hurdling was brilliant, though Robles seemed to have the speed at the starts. Richardson was being aggressive and clearly knew that he would have to pull it out the bag to win....and he did just that!

Tomorrow night Dai Greene, who I train with, is in the final of the 400m hurdles. He is in great shape and cruised his heats and semi finals. We shall see!

Here is my heat...

And the Final:

Friday, 26 August 2011

Daegu: Pre-competition

I am now in the athlete village, ready to compete tomorrow at 9.58am (GMT +8) in heat two. The heats have been seeded well so I hope I have a good chance of making it through to the semi final. It will be the first 3 in each heat followed by the 4 fastest losers that progress. I have Jason Richardson (USA) and Dwight Thomas (JAM) in my heat so it will be a quick race.

Yesterday I had an easy day and went to the stadium where I did a light warm up on the preparation track next door to the main stadium. The surface of the track is so fast to run on so I reckon there will be some quick times posted out here in the sprint events. The stadium itself is enormous, holding over 60,000 people. Should I make it through to the semi or final I will probably have a full stadium to compete in as those races are in the evening. After our various sessions, myself and the rest of my training group had a wander around the facilities and got familiarised with the set up before we go into competition.

Now that the competitions have begun all the athletes are becoming extremely focused, but everyone is in high spirits. I went into the city centre yesterday afternoon to go to the Nike hospitality and saw all the hotshots playing ping pong and chilling out in a comfortable environment away from the spotlight.

There are posters everywhere for this championships and there will hopefully be a really good atmosphere once I get into the stadium. Pressure's on =)

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Leaving Ulsan preparation camp

This afternoon myself and the other hurdlers in the Aviva GB Team (Dai Greene, Jack Green, Elidih Child in the 400m Hurdles. Andy Turner and William Sharman in the 110m) will be making our way to Daegu. Once we are there we will have to settle ourselves into our apartments and then report to doping control in the evening for the blood-tests that all the athletes at these championships have to do. This is the first time that all the athletes, across all events, have been tested together prior to a championships.
Daegu Stadium

In the morning I have my last training session before I race on Sunday (28th) morning in the heats of the 110m hurdles. The track in Daegu will be a blue coloured 'Mondo' surface that apparently will help us run quick times. I'll be off to check that out tomorrow as well as the fabled Nike hospitality zone in town.

Start line of 110m hurdles in Daegu