Oxfordshire hurdling star Lawrence Clarke has recovered from a hamstring injury and will compete in this weekend’s UK Championships in Birmingham.
The 23-year-old, from Christmas Common, near Watlington, defied expectations by finishing fourth in the 110m hurdles at London 2012.
But as he looks ahead to Sunday’s race and August’s World Championships in Moscow, Clarke already has an eye on Rio 2016.
The former pupil of Summer Fields School, Oxford, injured his hamstring in May, having also fractured a wrist in December.
He was unsure whether the injury would force him to miss this weekend’s action, but has decided that he is in good enough shape to return to the track for a meeting that doubles up as the world championship trials.
“I am looking at long-term goals,” said Clarke. “For me, Rio is the target. I don’t want to jeopardise anything by pushing too quickly.”
He added: “Up to a fortnight ago, I was able to do everything in training apart from hurdling.
“But once I got the all-clear, I was be able to progress very quickly.
“I am running quickly and lifting heavier weights than I was before the Olympics.”
Clarke’s main British rivals from last year, Andy Pozzi and Andy Turner, are both out for the season with injury.
Aside from Will Sharman, Clarke does not believe there are any other British sprint hurdlers shaping up to take his place in the team.
“It was a simple injury, which was good,” he said.
“Andy Turner had the same problem and I had a chat with him about it. You have got to be careful when you come back.” Clarke would love to get to Moscow and challenge for a medal, but he remains realistic. “If I don’t get to the World Championships, I will still have competitions after that,” he added.
“I will try to beat the people who do well in Moscow. There are still a lot of positives I could take from that. “There will not be as much pressure and I will be able to try different things in competitions. “All this could be a blessing in disguise, but I still want to make the World Championships.”
He added: “I am not expecting to go there and win a medal.
“I have got to be sensible and just try and get there first. “I am only 23. A lot of people have lost sight of that fact. I am not looking to peak until I am 26 or 27. “For me, it is far more important to peak at Rio and London 2017. “If there is any risk, I will have to be sensible – although my competitive nature will want me to go to the trials and win. “I won in 2011 and was second last year.”
Clarke recently put pupils at his other former school, Eton, through their paces with a session designed by his coach, Malcolm Arnold. He said: “When we were here there was no position apart from first place. “I was only fourth at London 2012. I am pretty determined to beat those guys in the end. “I want to end my career with at least one or two medals.” Although he acquired some fame at the London Olympics as the ‘Toff of the Track’, Clarke says his life has not changed much since. “Training is the same, my group is the same and my expectations are the same,” he said. “Last year was an anomaly in some ways.” Clarke now hopes that his next Olympic experience will see him at his peak.