Every throw matters to Clarke after turning professional

June 19, 2014

Jordan Clarke Track and FieldMost people assume being a professional athlete means caviar, first class and fast cars. But that’s not always the case, especially if you throw the shot put for a living in this country.

Former NCAA champion Jordan Clarke of Anchorage turned professional last year and is currently ranked sixth in the world, yet he’s struggling to make ends meet due to a demanding practice and travel schedule that makes it almost impossible to keep a regular 9-to-5.

“Turning pro for me has actually been an incredibly difficult transition because there is very little money in my event,” Clarke told me. “To make money I pretty much have to be top five in the world all the time and be an Olympic champion. There are just so many people in the U.S. that are good in the shot right now. When I first came out in the fall, I actually had a full-time job and I was training full-time. It was really tough trying to balance finances, training and being successful at the same time.”

Clarke, 23, has returned to competition this summer after overcoming a torn tendon in his right index finger that limited his training for most of the last year.

“There was a period of time where I didn’t know if my hand would recover to where it needed to be,” he said. “For about six months it wasn’t getting any better. The determination factor has always been there.”

During that time he worked as a nutritional counselor in Tempe, Ariz., where he consulted clients and sold supplements. He quit in February to concentrate solely on the shot put. This guy wasn’t meant to sit behind a desk.

At 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, he was born to throw the shot put. At Bartlett High he set a national high school mark that still stands today. He was a four-time NCAA champion at Arizona State University. Now he’s ranked sixth in the world.

“I would like to be No. 1,” he said.

Clarke trains in Tempe, Ariz., so he can train with his former college coach and be close to big meets in the Lower 48.

Last week in Idaho he surpassed the 70-foot plateau for the first time with a 16-pound shot at the Bart Templeman Throwers’ Meet. He looks to keep it going at next week’s U.S. National Championships in Sacramento.

“I really want to win,” Clarke said. “If I’m having a really good day I feel like I have it in me to pop out a good throw.”

It won’t be easy, though.

“I’m ranked sixth in the world and I’m sixth in the U.S.,” he added. “Pretty much the guys I’m competing against are the best guys in the world.”

Another 70-foot throw could earn Clarke an invitation to the IAAF Diamond League, the world’s premier track and field series that features the very best athletes, including Olympic long jumper Janay DeLoach Soukup of Fairbanks.

“I’m trying to get on that circuit in Europe because that’s where the Americans are making the money,” Clarke said. “It’s a huge circuit. They pack huge stadiums, the kind of crowds that show up for NFL games. Doing well at U.S. Nationals would open windows. If I do well it should be my meal ticket to the Diamond League.”