TORONTO — Zion Clark, who was born without legs because of a rare genetic disorder, set the Guinness World Record for the fastest 20-metre walk on two hands earlier this year, clocking in at 4.78 seconds. Now, he has his heights on Olympics stardom.
“I just went out there and I just got hot,” Clark told CTV’s Your Morning from his home in San Diego, Calif. on Monday. “I already made up in my mind that I was going to set the record.”
The 24-year-old officially set the record back in February at his old high school gym in Massillon, Ohio, with his coach and Olympic gold medalist Butch Reynolds cheering him on from the crowd.
“The fun fact about that was the first attempt I was actually way faster than the official attempt that got clocked,” Clark said. He estimated that he was one second faster than his current record but, unfortunately, his first dash wasn’t recorded properly by the sensors.
That’s why he’s highly motivated to smash his current feat: “So you might just see me try and break my own record.”
Clark said the key to his success is constant repetition. “To be able to move that fast you can’t just wake up one morning and think ‘I’m going to be the fastest man on the planet’…. It takes a lot of time and a lot of practice,” he said.
In fact, it was a viral video of his training that caught the attention of Guinness officials in the first place. They reached out to him, letting him know that he might be the fastest person on two hands.
“I was like, ‘well, I guess I’ll take a shot at it,’” he recalled. A few short months later, he set the record officially.
CLARK OVERCAME BULLYING, FOSTER SYSTEM
Clark was born with caudal regression syndrome, which is characterized by abnormal development of the end of the spine, and he was put up for adoption as a baby. He moved around within the foster care system for the first 16 years of his life.
“It made my life harder from the get-go because I had to go through two different surgeries for my back, just so I could sit up straight,” he told the Guinness World Records.
But within days of Clark aging out of the foster care system, he was adopted by Kimberli Hawkins, who’d always dreamed of having a son. “To me, it’s not a foster mother. A lot of people say foster mother and I’m not a big fan of that because she is my mother,” Clark added.
He eventually found his calling in sports and began pursuing competitive wrestling. In 2018, Clark’s journey was the subject of a Netflix short documentary, in which he spoke about growing up without a stable home, being bullied, mentally abused, and overcoming adversity.
Clark is now training to become first American athlete to compete in both the Olympics and the Paralympics in Paris in 2024. In the former, he’s looking to compete as a wrestler and, in the latter, he’ll be testing his limits in wheelchair racing.
He has his sights on winning more medals than American swimmer Michael Phelps, who’s currently the most decorated Olympian of all time.
“I’m currently one of the fastest 100-metre sprinters in country when it comes to track and field, and I feel like that’s rightly so,” he said. “I put in the work, I put in the time, I put hours, and hours, and hours on the track that nobody has seen. I’m sometimes there in the dead of the night… I want to be the first one there and the last one to leave.”