Clarke shows touch of class to embellish family name

 

The Olympic Stadium

Until last night it is unlikely that any of the seven other men in the final of the 110m hurdles had heard of Lawrence Clarke. The 22-year-old former Etonian, heir to a baronetcy and distant relation to two US presidents, now has a notable achievement of his own to add to a rich family history worthy of a Wodehouse novel; a fourth place in the Olympic final out of deep left-field.

It would have taken most of the remainder of the night to explain his background to the rest of the field, but what became apparent over the handful of seconds the final occupied is that there is a world-class talent in that well-bred frame, and a relish for the big occasion. As he was introduced to the crowd, with the rest of the field probably wondering "Who?", he beamed and gestured for greater support.

His time of 13.39sec was actually down on his semi-final mark of 13.31 and at times during the race he appeared to be forcing himself rather than flowing like the men inside him, but he gritted his teeth and hurled himself into fourth behind Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson of the US and Jamiaca's Hansle Parchment. Dayron Robles, the dazzling Cuban world record holder and defending champion, pulled up midway through the race and joined Liu Xiang, China's pre-event favourite, in limping out of London without a medal.

"I can't believe I came fourth in the Olympic Games," said Clarke. "I didn't even expect to make the final. I ran the semi-final treating it as a final, and I ran a PB, so that was a dream come true."

For Merritt it was a classic example of peaking at the right time. He came into the race as the fastest man this year, having three times run 12.93, including at the London Grand Prix, and improved that again in a commanding run in the final, finishing in 12.92. It is the fastest he has ever run. The 27-year-old altered his technique at the start of this season in an attempt to close the gap on Robles and Xiang. He dropped the number of steps he takes to the first hurdle by one to seven and it has made that pivotal marginal difference.

Clarke won Commonwealth bronze two years ago. He had been spotted by Jason Gardener and recommended to Malcolm Arnold, the man who coached Colin Jackson to two world titles and also looks after Dai Greene. "The last four years have been remarkable," said Clarke. "I can't thank my coach enough – he took me from a 15.3 [sec] to a 13.3."

Clarke clearly has potential to succeed at the highest level, but what also cannot but grab the attention is his family history, one he doesn't seek to play down with photographs of himself dressed in a tweed suit on his website.

His great grandfather was Admiral Sir Dudley Rawson Stratford de Chair, once governor of New South Wales and the man who laid the foundation stone of Sydney Harbour Bridge. It gets better: Clarke is heir to baronetcy of Clarke of Dunham Lodge in Norfolk – awarded to the family for services to "womankind" by William IV, while his paternal great-grandfather married into the Roosevelt family, making Clarke the younger a distant cousin of two presidents of the US. He is also, for the final Wodehousian twist, a US citizen (as well as holding a British passport).

The British No 1, Andy Turner, world bronze medallist last year, failed to make the final. "I let my coach down, I let people down," he said. The women's 400m hurdles was won by Russia's Natalya Antyukh by 0.07sec from Lashinda Demus of the US, the current world champion. Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic was third.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?