Hurdling ahead

Kicking off a regular series of interviews with famous sporting alumni, we talk to the Olympic hurdler and Eton old boy Lawrence Clarke

After winning the 2009 European Junior Championships, Lawrence Clarke then took the bronze medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. His career high point thus far came at the 2012 London Olympics where Lawrence made it all the way to the 110m final, finishing in a hugely impressive fourth place: this summer, meanwhile, he also made the final at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Lawrence was educated at Wetherby’s Pre-Preparatory School, Summer Fields Preparatory School, Eton College and the University of Bristol.

What are your memories of the sports coaching at Eton?
I focused on football, and was the A team goalkeeper for my year until I realised my talent over the hurdles. Winter and spring were centred on football and the Eton Field Game [the school’s own distinctive take on soccer], while summer was track and field. Not many people hurdled, so I was part of a small and very focused group.

Tell us about the school facilities and coaching philosophy.
We had great facilities, and we also used to see Olympic sprinters training at the Thames Valley track nearby. The coaching ethos was to focus on one or two events – the long jump and hurdles for me, although I didn’t make the A team until quite late into my time at Eton. The annual inter-house championships were always the biggest event. Later into my time at the school the Berkshire Championships were the annual target, while a lucky few aimed for the English Schools Championships.

What do you think your time at the school gave you?
The fact that I didn’t stick to just one sport was a key factor in my success. A varied set of challenges set me up physically and mentally for the intensity of elite sport. Not being forced down one particular sporting route kept me interested in trying different things and, ultimately, meant that I didn’t peak too early.

What are your memories of school life beyond the sports field?
I have great memories of school. Eton has a wonderful social atmosphere, which extends from the sports fields into the classroom. Work was hard, but there was always the break in the day for sport and the chance to let off some steam and get away from academic pressures.

Beyond sport and work, was there time for anything else?
The society events were always a highlight. I remember meeting speakers like Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Clive Woodward – world-class speakers that you wouldn’t find at many other places.

What has been your own sporting highlight thus far?
That would have to be finishing fourth in the 110m hurdles at the London Olympic Games. Ever since the Olympics were awarded to London in 2005, I had been dreaming of this opportunity. It was the moment of a lifetime to stand in front of the home crowd and to challenge the world’s best.

What has been your greatest challenge or lowest point so far?
I was injured for the whole of 2013 following a broken wrist and two hamstring tears. After the highs of London 2012, this came at the worst time and was the hardest thing to overcome. Thankfully, this year I made the Commonwealth Games Final and felt myself to be back to the same shape that I was in two years ago.

What are your plans for the future?
My target is the 2016 Olympic Games. London came early in my career from a physical point of view, but Rio de Janeiro should see me at my peak.

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