Lawrence Clarke on clay pigeons, new friends and new skills

Great Britain’s sprint hurdler tells SPIKES about his penchant for clay pigeons; making friends with an Olympic shooting champion, and why athletes should try their hand at the double trap.

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The Olympic Village is a fascinating melting pot of rumour and intrigue: from the lewd to the legendary. But it’s also a place where stars from every sport can mingle and become firm friends.

Just ask sprint hurdler Lawrence Clarke, who become good pals with Great Britain’s Olympic shooting champion Peter Wilson.

“We just sort of hit it off,” says Clarke, 22. “I enjoy clay pigeon shooting and, obviously, so does he.”  

Clarke has been a keen shooter since childhood, and once a week during the winter he goes out to the range to relax. He met up with Wilson again at a London shooting school after the Games, where his marksmanship skills were really put to the test. 

“I’d never done that type of shooting, where the clays go away from you at lots of different angles,” says Clarke. “He [Wilson] scored 188 out of 200 at the Olympic Games. I think I would score about 20. I have the most rookie style. I shoot like a poacher and he shoots like a professional.

“He gave me some tips. It was a lot of fun. Now he keeps on trying to convince me how I should get him to run the 100m.”

[Since this interview, Wilson did actually run a 14.64 100m, in very wet conditions on BBC TV’s Superstars]

Clarke, who has a 110m hurdles PB of 13.31, has huge respect for Wilson’s shooting achievements, in particular his ability to keep cool under the most intense pressure. 

“He has 200 clays at an Olympic Games and to be able to hold it [the gun] really steady… It is one of the worst feelings on the planet when you know you have two clays to count to win something.”

While many of his sprint colleagues might think that bobsleigh offers the only post-athletics alternative, Clarke believes that all elite athletes can pick up the basic skills of shooting.

He recently went to the range with some members of his training group [which includes Andrew Pozzi, Dai Greene and Jack Green], and was very impressed.

“I find it remarkable shooting with friends who have never done it before and athletes, because the athletes pick it up almost straight away,” he says. “The ability of elite athletes to learn something quickly is phenomenal.”