As the man who survived two near-death experiences, Cheavon Clarke laughs at the label “the comeback kid” – but only because he’s just turned 30, writes James Toney.
Clarke’s trip from Montego Bay in Jamaica to Tokyo took the long, winding road, which somewhat suits a boxer who, disillusioned, quit his sport just seven years ago to become a long-haul truck driver. .
Indeed, among the multitude of posts on the theme of the Olympic Games “how it started / how it goes” on social networks that you will see in the days to come, Clarke is a story worth telling. , a story of Team GB deserving a place on the podium.
At eight, he fell from a ladder, impaling himself on a point. As doctors fought to save her life, Clarke’s mother convinced herself that her son was dead.
Another medical miracle ensued when, a decade later, he survived an appendix rash, despite having his vital signs flattened in the desperate operation that followed.
Clarke, who only started boxing at the age of 19, competed for Jamaica at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow before leaving the ring for life on the road.
It was only continued harassment from longtime coaches Len Trusty and Jason Weeks that forced him to put on the gloves again, with a change of allegiance to Great Britain leading to Clarke’s Olympic debut in the category. heavyweights this summer.
“It’s my story, but there are a lot of people behind it,” says Clarke, one of more than 1,000 athletes to benefit from national lottery funding under Britain’s Sport’s World Class program, allowing her to train full-time and benefit from world-class facilities, technologies, supervision and support for teams.
“Len, Jason and I have a pack. I wouldn’t be an Olympian without them, without a doubt they are the family you need in this sport.
“I know they will go to the end of the world and come back for me, nothing is too much trouble and my confidence in them is total.
“Whatever happens in my life, these are the first people I call. When I got my first car and crashed I called Jason before my mom, they’re not like coaches but best friends.
Amir Khan was only 17 when he won boxing silver in Athens and Anthony Joshua a 22-year-old when he won gold in London 2012.
But Clarke prefers to take inspiration from other “old boys” – other heavyweights like Audley Harrison, who was 29 when he won in Sydney, and Joe Joyce, 30 when he stole gold from. Rio.
Indeed, Olympic and Paralympic sport in the UK has transformed over the past two decades, thanks to the investment of National Lottery players, and Clarke hopes to be a part of that success story.
“I like the boxers who have to push, do the other jobs and take the difficult road, to level up, never to settle down, to continue to strive,” he adds.
“Every athlete makes their own path, that’s what makes the Olympics special. Everyone has the same goal, everyone has taken a different path there.”
Clarke even believes that the time he was out of the ring made him more lively, hungrier, and saved the toll on his body that ends many careers too soon. Maybe life begins at 30 after all?
“I loved those few years on the road, working hard, making honest money and not being a slave to my trade,” Clarke added.
“It was fun, I always think no matter what if things don’t go well I’ll be back in this truck and be really happy.
“I know boxing has a reputation for being about money – big pro fights and making millions.
“I think I have a take on money – it’s about being happy at what you do, which is why I loved my truck job.
“Give me a million pounds now or an Olympic gold medal and I’ll be no – give me that medal!
“I know I can beat anyone in the world – now I just have to. I know it would change my life, but I also want it to change the lives of a whole new generation. of boxers.
“If I can come from this little place in Jamaica that nobody knows, have all of these experiences and become an Olympic champion, that’s a perfect story.”
The entrepreneurial spirit has always been strong at Clarke, who has shared many stories about her ‘side businesses’ – from selling chocolate to school friends to starting her own clothing business, Level Up Nation, by placing orders directly and managing inventory and distribution during his free time between training.
Born and raised in the Jamaican countryside, Clarke moved to England in the winter of 2002, becoming the first black child in his school and discovering he could fight after an altercation with a racist bully.
But football was the youngster’s only sporting passion until his fateful first trip to a boxing gym and a chance encounter with Weeks.
“He said to me, ‘You can be a champion,’” he adds.
When Clarke steps into the ring in the days to come, her long-term story may come full circle.
No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than the national lottery players, who raise around £ 36million every week for good causes. Discover the positive impact of the national lottery on sport at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen