Athlete Profile: Shorty Clark

Tuesday, 27 October 2015, 2:25 PM
By Andrew Dewhurst

Shorty Clark is no stranger to the triathlon community, especially those in his beloved Taranaki region. Clark has been competing since 1995, has attended 12 ITU World Age Group Championships and won countless medals at NZ National Championship level.

They might therefore be wondering just where he is this summer given Clark will be conspicuous by his absence from the Sovereign Tri Series and national championship level events. The sight of his lithe frame, cheeky grin and shouts of ‘Go The Naki’ will be absent from the summer landscape.

Clark is in his own words ‘flying under the radar’ this summer but it is not by choice. If he had his way the 61 year old would be mixing it up with athletes a generation younger, but he has been slowed down by an ageing hip – he hopes though not for long as he explains the lengths he has gone to in order to return to the sport he is so passionate about.

For a number of years now I have been carrying a “buggered hip” around the track, and finally it has caught me out. After the ITU World Series Race and Tri NZ Nationals in Auckland last year, it was painfully obvious the I was either going to knackers yard or going under the knife.

“I chose to go “under the knife“ but did not want to jeopardize a return to the sport – as can very much be the case after a traditional hip replacement. So it was after a lot of research and good luck that I was able to have an operation called the ‘Birmingham Hip Resurfacing Technique’ to give myself every chance of a return to triathlon.”

It wasn’t as easy as all that though for Clark, with just one hospital and surgeon carrying out the procedure here in New Zealand. Clark had to up sticks from his beloved ‘Naki and head to the big smoke of Auckland.

Photo courtesy of New Zealand Triathlon & Multisport

“I headed to the North Shore Southern Cross Hospital and surgeon Hugh Blackley, and set the date for July last year to go under the knife. My health is so important to me but so too is my ability to participate and compete in triathlon and thanks to Doctor Blackley and the team, I have set my sights on a return to my ‘fledgling’ Tri career. I had been advised that with a regular total hip replacement that was no chance.”

Clark is now seven months post-surgery and while not yet competing or able to contemplate the Sovereign tri Series or the Tri NZ standard distance National Champs in Auckland in April, he is on the road to a full recovery and once again lining up to take on the best in the world in his age group.

“I am doing some indoor riding, lots of swimming and yes, I am having to grit my teeth and swallow my pride and do lots of walking! It took me some time to get over the fact I would not be racing this summer and the operation itself was a bit of a mental and physical hurdle but I know that this gives me a chance down the track of returning to the top of the sport – for me that means National and world age group racing, so I will go against my best instincts and bide my time!”

While Clark won’t be on the start line this summer, he won’t be far from the action, watching for results and updates throughout the summer, and of course helping out in late March when the ITU World Cup circuit returns to New Plymouth with the event set once again to profile the world’s best triathletes to the Taranaki community.

“Call me an All Black if you like, but I view it as a Sabbatical! So rest assured that come the 2015/2016 Tri Season and Sovereign Tri Series I will be back with that top call – GO THE NAKI!!. It certainly feels strange and odd that I’m not racing, but I know that this is how it has to be for the short term. All the best to everyone if you are taking part, volunteering, marshalling or supporting for a successful 2015 summer season.”

Originally published in NZ Triathlon & Multisport Issue 101, April 2015


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