Former Bishop's Stortford High School student Ollie Clarke targets another crack at UK's Strongest Man after back injury hampers his debut appearance in Belfast
Ollie Clarke wants to secure a return to the UK's Strongest Man stage this year to prove his podium potential.
The former Bishop's Stortford High School and Richard Whittington Primary School pupil became the youngest person to qualify for the event last year after winning the Under-23 UK's Strongest Man title at the age of 19.
Clarke, now 20, and 15 fellow athletes headed to Belfast in October – the highlights were due to be screened on Channel 5 over the festive period but have been delayed – to battle it out for the crown, but a back injury flared up early on and severely hampered him.
He was able to compete in his heat, taking on a yoke run, log press, silver dollar deadlift and car hold, but he could not show what he is capable of, finishing in the bottom two and being eliminated.
"I was nowhere near my best, but it was a great experience to be there and compete against the massive names I've watched for years," said Clarke, who lives in Little Hallingbury and trains at Stortford's Koru Gym.
"You have to block an injury out when you're about to do an event. You've got to go for it and give everything.
"Doing it made my back 100 times worse, but I wanted to do it because I'd worked so hard to get there and wasn't going to pull out.
"I can use it as experience and I want to come a lot higher in UK's Strongest Man this year. I want to get on the podium and I think that could have been possible last year if I hadn't been injured."
Clarke is able to continue following large parts of his training regime during lockdown thanks to having some equipment at home. He is also helped online by Swindon-based coach Laurence Shahlaei, a former Europe's Strongest Man winner and multiple entrant in World's Strongest Man.
There are two routes he can take to qualify for this year's UK's Strongest Man. He would need either to retain his under-23 UK title or come in the top three or four in England's Strongest Man, which is reached via the Southern England's Strongest Man competition.
Clarke said he could potentially attempt both qualification paths depending on the dates of the events, which are yet to be announced.
"I'm using this lockdown to rehab my back and get it totally sorted," said Clarke, who is sponsored by Silverback Gymwear and CNP Supplements. "Once I know the dates of those comps I can go for it."
Clarke is also keeping busy after setting up his own business. Having recently qualified as a personal trainer, he will be putting clients through their paces in the Stortford, Harlow and Hertford area.
To find out more about his business, email email@example.com or follow him on Instagram @ollieclarke_strength.