Meet Zion Clark, a wrestler and athlete with dreams of becoming a multi-time Olympic champion. Spurred on by a simple phrase – "no excuses" – and surrounded by former Olympians and world record holders, Clarke set a blistering Guinness World Record for completing the fastest 20m walking on hands.
When asked about the moment he attempted the record, 21-year-old Clark, from Ohio, US, grins: "I just took off, man". While Clark's second attempt at the Guinness World Record title is the official time to beat – 4.8 seconds – incredibly, his first attempt was actually even faster. Unfortunately, Clark ducked under the sensor as he crossed the finish line and had to go again.
"To be a Guinness World Record title holder, I'm number one," Clark says. "There's nobody faster than me right now. I'm the fastest man on their hands in the world. But at the same time it also means that my family's winning, my town's winning, and my support group's winning, because without them I wouldn't be here doing this."
Born without legs as a result of a rare genetic disorder called Caudal Regression Syndrome, Clark was put up for adoption as a baby and moved through the foster care system for 16 years. He was badly bullied at school – "I got shoved in lockers, I've been beat up pretty bad," he says – and experienced mental abuse and underfeeding at home. Eventually, the foster care system reached out to Kimberli Hawkins, who adopted Clark seven months later. "It's the best thing that's ever happened to me," he says. (continued below)
Clark began wrestling at school, attending two or three practises each day. "By the time my senior year of high school came around I became one of the best guys in the state," he says. "Soon after that, I became one of the best guys in the country." The wrestling world is like a close family, he adds. "Everybody just accepted me in as one of them, they didn't look at me as [though] I was different, they went hard against me just like I wanted them to," Clark says.
Setting the Guinness World Record has further fuelled Clark's aspirations for Olympic glory. In 2024, he wants to become the first American athlete to compete in both the Olympic (wrestling) and Paralympic (wheelchair racing) games. "I want to win more medals than Michael Phelps," Clark says. "I want to be that guy. I'm gonna be that guy. Because why not? I know people that have disabilities the same as mine, that have disabilities that are more severe than mine, and I see them becoming high-level athletes every day. It's all about how much heart you've got and how much work you're willing to put in."
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