A Team GB hurdler who went to Eton has said he wishes he had gone to a state school instead.
Lawrence Clarke, who is gearing up for the 110 meters hurdles today, is heir to a baronetcy and related to Theodore Roosevelt’s family. He said he could have started training younger if he had attended a different school.
Comparisons have been drawn between the Paddington-born hurdler and the character of Lord Andrew Lindsay in Chariots of Fire, played by Nigel Havers in the film and partly based on David Burghley who won a gold medal in the 400 metres hurdles at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.
However, he said his heroes were more along the lines of Linford Christie. Clarke, 22, who is competing today in round one of the 110m hurdles, said: “If anything, it was a disadvantage going to Eton. With a boarding school, you can’t go after school to the club athletics track.
“Eton is so rigorous on its academic courses that they make you focus entirely on that. You have your school sports, but that’s only within certain hours. I only started training when I was almost 19 — if I’d gone to a state school a coach probably would have picked me up younger. I always regret it.
"I’ve seen pictures of me hurdling in the school sports day when I was 10 years old, my technique was better than it is now. I’d be a much larger step ahead.”
After Eton, Clarke studied theology and religious studies at Bristol, where he became serious about hurdling. He is now trained by Welsh hurdler Dai Greene’s coach, Malcolm Arnold.
The son of Sir Toby Clarke, heir to the baronetcy of Clarke of Dunham Lodge, Norfolk, Clarke is a US citizen thanks to his presidential lineage. His great-grandfather, Sir Orme Clarke, married into the family of Theodore Roosevelt, making him the president’s first cousin, four times removed.
But Charles Lawrence Somerset Clarke said that while he was proud of his background, he was determined to make his own name.
He said: “As a child, you get brought up with the stories of what people in your family have done.
“The Roosevelt family are a very important family in American history and they cast a big shadow.
“I want to crawl out into the light and say I’ve achieved something on a par with any of those people.”
However, he said he also liked to play up to “stereotypes” and his website has a picture of him hamming it up in tweeds.
A 2010 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, he was plagued by hamstring and muscle injuries the following year.
Of today’s challenge, Clarke said: “All I’m thinking about is the 10 hurdles. It’s not like an ordinary job. You spend all day thinking about it — it’s your career and your life and what you dream about every night.”
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