British high jump champion Clarke-Khan: behind closed doors Olympic debut would be just as special

Sportsbeat
·3 min read
Clarke-Khan, 20, made a memorable international debut at the European Indoor Championships in Torun last month
Clarke-Khan, 20, made a memorable international debut at the European Indoor Championships in Torun last month

Joel Clarke-Khan insists making his Olympic debut behind closed doors would be just as special as competing at a conventional Games bonanza, writes Will Jennings.

And the Worcester high jump ace reckons everything is going ‘perfectly to plan’ for a memorable tilt at Tokyo for Team GB this summer.

Clarke-Khan was crowned British champion last year and was catapulted into the international spotlight in March when he was selected to compete in the European Indoor Championships in Torun.

He finished 13th in Poland but gained valuable experience from competing against European elite such as Maksim Nedasekau, Gianmarco Tamberi and Thomas Carmoy.

Clarke-Khan has a chance of qualifying for Japan this summer and knows excelling at the Under-23 European Championships in July holds the key to booking his place on the plane.

The Games look set to be held without overseas supporters but Clarke-Khan says that would not diminish the joy of securing his spot at the showpiece.

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With less than 100 days to go until Tokyo, the 21-year-old said: “I don’t mind either way. Whatever it is, I’ve competed behind closed doors and I’ve competed with crowds.

“Personally, I do prefer a crowd as there’s a bit more atmosphere – I think I get fired up when I’ve got that audience and that support, which allows me to jump better.

“But if I was to go to Tokyo, it would be a dream come true just to be there. It’s still early days, so just getting there and being there would be the goal and the dream. Anything that happens when I’m there would be an added extra and bonus.

“Everything is going as well as planned. I’ve got quite high expectations of myself this season and I believe there’s a possibility that I could be looking at going to Tokyo.

“I’ve got to be realistic – it’s still a long shot – but it’s certainly not impossible. The only limits you have are the ones you set yourself. Why shouldn’t I aim high and aim to get there? This season I’m really excited to see how it goes.”

Clarke-Khan’s burgeoning athletics career is supported by a partnership between Entain – owner of Ladbrokes and Coral – and SportsAid, set up in 2019 and endorsed by 11-time Paralympic gold medallist Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

And the West Midlands ace has wasted no time making a name for himself on the buzzing British scene, soaring to national nirvana in Manchester last September with a leap of 2.18m.

Clarke-Khan currently trains at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium and balances his busy schedule with a job at a Tesco branch in Worcester.

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He says swapping trolleys for Tokyo is the short-term goal but medalling at Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 – now just three and seven years away in the adapted Olympic cycle – is the principal ambition.

“Paris is the long-term goal – and not even that long-term goal anymore as it’s only three years away,” he added.

“Every athlete’s dream is to go to the Olympic Games. 2024 is my second best opportunity to go there – but 2028 would be an even better opportunity to be in medal contention if I continue with the path I’m on now.

“Being able to label yourself as an Olympian would be an absolute dream come true. I’m just going to be giving everything I can to make that dream become a reality.”

Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Visit entaingroup.com to find out more