JOEL CLARKE-KHAN reckons being propelled into the spotlight at the European Indoor Championships proved the perfect preparation for starring at next summer’s hometown Commonwealth Games.
The Worcester high jumper never expected to compete at last week’s competition in Torun but was selected at the last minute after a jump of 2:23m at the British trials.
He finished 13th in Poland – with a leap of 2:16m – but gained valuable experience from watching the decorated likes of Belarusian Maksim Nedasekau and Italian Gianmarco Tamberi strut their stuff.
Clarke-Khan, the reigning British champion, soaked up every bit of insight he could and believes his appearance at the Championships was a gamechanger.
The 21-year-old, who trains at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium and was speaking on Commonwealth Day, said: “It all happened very quickly and I wasn’t expecting any of it to happen.
“But I can take so much from it – I spent a lot of time studying what the other high jumpers and the top guys did, really taking tips and understanding how to keep your composure.
“It doesn’t get much better than the European jumpers, so it was basically the top world stage and it was really good experience.
“Being on the top stage with all the top jumpers, people who I idolised growing up in the same competition as me, was all a bit crazy.
“Europe is known for having the best high jumpers, so I don’t think there’s anything else that could intimidate me more than a European Championships.
“It’s also about working around different things that you don’t get at lower-level competition – the cameras, the introduction, the crowd and all that kind of stuff.
“I’ve taken so much from it – how you go about the travelling, the adapting to new environments, and I feel like I’ve learned so much.
“It’s going to put me in a really good position for any senior competitions I do going into the summer.”
Clarke-Khan’s athletics career is fuelled by a partnership between Entain – owner of Ladbrokes and Coral – and SportsAid, which helps him access funding for training, travel, equipment and mentoring.
He watched Nedasekau, 23, scoop gold in Torun with a stunning leap of 2:37m but knows time is on his side as he shoots for a memorable Commonwealth debut at Birmingham 2022.
Clarke-Khan works at a Tesco branch in Worcester when he isn’t training, with the income – bolstered by Entain and SportsAid funding – paying for his petrol to train at Birmingham’s High Performance Centre.
That’s the city he’s hoping to star in next summer and the Worcester ace, who also dabbles in modelling when he can, admits the fact it’s a home Games would make it even more special.
Clarke-Khan, who needs to clear the bar at 2:26m to be selected, added: “I train in Birmingham every day – it’s going to be my first home Games and I’ve also got a really good opportunity to perform when I’m there.
“Performing in front of my home crowd at the Commonwealth Games could be a huge real start to being at the top level, which is what I want and where I want to be.
“It 100 per cent makes me more hungry that it would be a home Games. All the Championships that I’ve done so far have been in different countries, and when you go away you have to adapt.
“I’m going to be so comfortable at home – I’ve done many Championships there already, and I’ll be able to have all my family and friends to support me because it’s only 30 minutes up the road. That’s where my heart is at the moment and that’s the goal I’m going for.”
Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. As part of this three-year partnership, Entain are supporting a diverse group 50 of UK athletes per year from a variety of spots and para-sports. Visit entaingroup.com to find out more.