Garden of England helping boxer Clarke prepare for rearranged Tokyo Games

Sportsbeat

If Gravesend boxer Cheavon Clarke punches his way to Olympic gold next year, he could owe it all to the Garden of England’s rolling hills.

Training for Team GB hopefuls is very different in 2020. With pools, tracks and gyms locked down new pursuits have had to be found, with Clarke taking to the road bike.

The 29-year-old heavyweight is one of the hottest prospects of the GB Boxing team and was just days away from the qualification bouts for Tokyo 2020 in March.

“At first it was disappointing when lockdown was implemented because you’re in the process of qualifying, the Olympics is something you’ve prepared four years for, some of your teammates have qualified and you’re two days away from qualifying yourself,” said Clarke, who is among 1,100 athletes on UK Sport’s World Class Programme, funded by The National Lottery, allowing him to train full-time and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

“I wasn’t very happy at all, I was like, ‘I’ve got to wait another year to go and get a gold medal at the Olympics!’

“The first day I didn’t really want to speak to anybody. I just went to the doughnut store and got some doughnuts, trying to console myself!

“After that, to be honest, I’ve just got on with things. I’ve tried to plan and prepare for when we’re able to go again.

“I’ve also been able to pick up a new hobby in bike riding. The programme sent us out some bikes and me and Josh Buatsi – he was Olympic bronze medallist at Rio – we’ve been cycling around south London and Kent – you might have seen us about!

“I’m loving the experience, the cycling team need to watch out because I might just swap sports!

“I love the scenery, my friends have started calling me nature boy, I love it, it gives you time to relax a little bit.”

It is unclear when GB boxing qualification for Tokyo will resume, but if Clarke is able to head to Japan, it will mark a new revolution on the wheels of a rollercoaster ride.

The Kent heavyweight only took up the sport aged 18, his first bout for Gravesham ABC, but in 2014 moved away from the sport to work as an HGV driver.

Two years later his coach Jason Weeks persuaded him back to set him on his current path, winning bronze at both the 2018 Commonwealth Games and last summer’s European Games in Minsk.

“We can work on the little weaknesses that we have now, we can become stronger so for me personally the extra year will do me good,” continued Clarke, who is looking to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won since the introduction of National Lottery funding in 1997.

“It will make the Olympics more special, you have the whole pandemic situation and everyone’s feeling kind of repressed.

“It will be like a revelation, joyous, a new lease of life for everybody. What better is there than an Olympic Games or a World Cup, those are the times where everyone in the world is tuned into the same thing.

“It gives us all something to look forward to and celebrate.

“National Lottery funding has been a fundamental part for me. The staff, the technology, the information, everything behind the scenes that people don’t see – it all comes down to the National Lottery funding us and allowing us to relax – it lets us achieve our goals.”

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/stories/track-to-tokyo and #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo