Tokyo 2020 - ‘Let’s complete the journey’ - Commonwealth champion Frazer Clarke on Team GB Olympic boxing dream
The 29-year-old super-heavyweight takes part in a European qualifying tournament for the Olympics over the coming days, an event which was suspended just before the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown last March. Clarke will turn professional after the Games, but tells Eurosport he only has eyes for Tokyo 2020 gold for now.
Britain's Frazer Clarke is a favourite for Olympic gold - but needs to qualify first
It must be one of the longest breaks in sporting play in history, but in the coming days, Frazer Clarke and his British team-mates will finally try to secure qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Last March, just before the UK was plunged into a first coronavirus lockdown, the European Boxing Road to Tokyo Qualifier was being held in London before it moved behind closed doors and was eventually suspended due to rising cases.
Almost 15 months on, the competition finally kicks off again between June 4-8, but has now moved to Paris. Clarke, 29, is one of the favourites for Olympic super heavyweight gold but will not even get a chance to make sure of his qualification until some seven weeks or so before the Games commence.
“It's been the same throughout the whole world hasn't it, uncertainty about the future, especially for sports people and especially people in my line of work,” Clarke told Eurosport.
I waited a long time to try and compete at the Olympic Games and this is it for me, because there's no more after this, this is my last cycle, I’m turning professional.
“So it was difficult at times, I was stuck in between turning pro or do I just carry on waiting for another year, not knowing what it was going to be like even in 2021.
“But the year has gone so fast, in a blink of an eye and I'm glad that I did wait. Looking back at last March when the qualifiers were suspended in London, I didn't quite know the seriousness of Covid-19.
“I thought, you know what, I'll give it two, three weeks and it'll be rescheduled somewhere else. And then all of a sudden it just went crazy. It was very difficult to take.”
Clarke says all boxers are in a strange position of needing to be close to their best for qualifying, without hitting their absolute top form so close to the Olympics. The Commonwealth champion picked up a win at the Belgrade Winner Tournament in April, claiming the best foreign boxer award in the process.
“Obviously I need to be super sharp for the qualifiers and almost 100%, but the Games are so close afterwards” he said.
I've probably got to have a week off and then literally carry on that training camp for the Olympics. I think you've got to manage the time and training right. You don't want to peak too early, you want to peak right on time.
“These are not the usual circumstances - I'd like to be qualified by now and be in a good space. We just have to take the rough with the smooth and get on with it.
“I've done most of my growing up with this squad and met some amazing people and as much as I want to do it for myself, there are a lot of people that have helped me over the years and I know what it means to them.
“I want to repay them and obviously put myself in a great position moving forward. Let’s complete the journey - this is the dream, then we go pro. But now, it’s all about Olympic gold, it has been for years.”
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The big money of professional boxing awaits for Clarke, who believes he can compete with the best having regularly sparred with three belt heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua. But having been on the amateur programme for well over a decade, he says finishing the job would mean the world to him.
“I was just a small, fat kid from Burton on Trent, people like that don't go to the Olympic Games.
"For me, for my family, for my kids, it'd be a huge, huge achievement to win gold. I'm doing my part, I've made the sacrifices, I've missed my daughter growing up, I've missed so many moments, but I'm committing, giving it everything I've got.
“Where I come from, we just brew beer - it's the best beer in the world in my view, I've not had a pint in... way too long! To be in that Olympic village, with Mo Farah and the like, it's going to be so big.”