Olympic champion Clarke eyes happy return to Rio
Canoe Slalom

Olympic champion Clarke eyes happy return to Rio

26 September 2018 / 06:28
Olympic champion Joe Clarke clearly thinks Rio is a home from home.
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Clarke is back in Brazil for this week's canoe slalom World Championships and he claimed his maiden world title in the men’s K1 team event alongside Chris Bowers and Bradley Forbes-Cryans - Britain’s first win in the discipline for 21 years.

British paddlers snatched two golds and two bronze medals in the team competitions, the perfect preparation for the individual events to come.

Mallory Franklin, who is seeking to defend her individual world title, helped retain the women’s C1 team crown, with Kimberley Woods and 17-year old newcomer Bethan Forrow.
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Franklin and Woods also won bronze in the women’s K1 team competition alongside Rio Olympian Fiona Pennie, while three-time Olympic silver medallist David Florence combined with Ryan Westley and Adam Burgress to claim bronze in the men’s C1 team event.

“We knew if we put the run down we’d challenge for a medal but to come away as world champions in the team is huge,” said Clarke. 

“It is the first time that GB has done this since 1997, which is before Chris was even born.

“It is always slightly different in the individual event, but I got my eye in on the course which is good and it always gives you confidence when you paddle well. 

“The biggest thing is that it gives you momentum to take forward, which is a good feeling. It certainly felt like home and I was surprised how quickly I have tuned back in to the course.”

Clarke enjoyed the parties and parades that came with his victory in the K1 canoe slalom in Rio but insists there is no lack of motivation after achieving his career ambition aged just 23.

After some taking some time away from the sport following his Olympic gold, Clarke’s focus has only intensified, as he seeks to become the first paddler to retain the men’s K1 title in Tokyo.

And he's been inspired by Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave, who didn't stop at one gold medal but went on to top the podium at five consecutive Olympics over two decades.

"Redgrave was a massive idol of mine growing up and I'm trying to do the same as him," said Clarke. "Five is probably out of my reach but two or three is right out there.

“Confidence is really high, I’ve pushed my level on the gym and that’s a huge boost. 

“This is a big World Championships for me as we look towards Tokyo. I feel like it’s a home advantage in some respects, no one has been back since and I’ve got of good memories of the place.

“However, when you feel this good it is easy to put expectation on yourself and that can get the better of you.”
JoeClarkeMaking history - ‘doing the double’ - is something that is clearly a daily focus for Clarke - though in a sport of razor-sharp margins, where the tiniest error can be the difference between champ and chump, nothing can be taken for granted.

He admits he's worried about the target painted on his back - with a crop of rising British talent among his rivals for the one Olympic selection place, before he can even think about the best on the world.

“After Rio I stepped to try out the real world, I bought myself a flat and did some consultancy work,” added Clarke. “Sitting at a desk from 9-5 made me realise how lucky I was to be involved in this sport.

“I think people started to think I was a one hit wonder but 2017 was always a lag year for me and I’ve come out all guns blazing this season.

“I’m a 100 percent or not at all sort of person. I can’t deal with not being in the shape that I need to be in or not being competitive. I’m a racer and competitor and I feel better than ever right now.

“Each competition makes me more and more positive, I know selection will be hard but that will just give me more confidence if successful. 

“The double is something that’s never been done before, probably because our sport has so many variables. But I know what it takes and I don’t need any more motivation to do it.”

Sportsbeat 2018