Aberdeen sprinter Zoey Clark has arrived in Japan and admits that despite having competed in many major athletics competitions over the past five years, the Tokyo Olympic Games will surpass everything that has gone before.
The 26-year-old, who is included in the Great Britain 4x400m relay squad, is based along with the rest of the track and field team at an exclusive holding camp in Yokohama, 20 miles to the south-west of the Japanese capital. They will stay there until the Games begin towards the end of the month.
Clark said: “I’m relatively experienced as I’ve competed in world and European championships as well as the Commonwealth Games, but everything about the Olympics feels bigger and more exciting.
“Even the preparations before setting off were different and make you realise this is something special.
“It will be a great learning experience and I’d love to be able to race, hopefully multiple times, and to do the best I can by really putting in a challenging effort.”
Great Britain will field a team in the mixed relay, which features on the Olympic programme for the first time, as well as in the men’s and women’s events.
That means Clark may have two opportunities to compete, although with nine women and six men having been picked for the relay squads, she can take nothing for granted.
Some may be selected for the qualifying rounds but not the finals, so it will be important to show good form throughout.
The first round of the mixed relay is on Friday July 30 with the final the following day.
The women’s relay heats are on Thursday August 5, the final taking place two days later.
— Zoey Clark (@_ZoeyClark) July 15, 2021
Clark said: “I’m eligible for the mixed relay and for the women’s relay so hopefully I’ll be considered for both.
“We won’t be told who is doing the mixed relay until near the end of our time in the holding camp when the staff will let us know.
“The women’s relay comes later and the selection will depend on who has been showing up well in training and how the girls doing the individual 400m get on.”
In the meantime, Clark is happy to have reached Yokohama, a location she is familiar with.
She said: “I was in Yokohama a few years ago with the GB team at the world relays. The facilities are amazing. I know the hotel we are staying in and the training set-up, so that’s good.
“We’ll be on our own so it’s a great opportunity to focus on final preparations. It’s great because there won’t be any distractions. We won’t move into the Olympic village in Tokyo until just before our competitions.
“Until then we will be following the personal training programmes from our own coaches although there are a number of relay practice sessions planned.”
‘A man of great talent’
Tributes have been paid to a highly respected Australian athletics coach who had strong connections with Inverness Harriers and Forres Highland Games over a period of more than 30 years.
Neville Sillitoe, who guided a series of top Australian sprinters to success at the highest level – including 1968 Mexico Olympics 200m silver medallist Peter Norman – has died at the age of 96.
Long-serving Inverness coach Harry Lakeland said: “He was a man of great talent and perseverance.
“For 30 years-plus he brought teams of 11-16 year-olds to Britain and Europe for periods of six weeks and more, three or four days here and there, including Jersey, Brighton, Blackpool, Stirling and of course Inverness.
“It was the first time many Inverness Harriers competed against international athletes and after some meetings we met up for a barbecue and ceilidh. Tours around Loch Ness were also a favourite. We won’t see his like again.”
Lakeland also pointed out that the Australian team’s visits to Inverness often tied in with the Forres Highland Games, where Sillitoe became a popular character.
Forres Highland Games secretary Mike Scott said: “I spoke to Neville two months ago when I found he wasn’t well, but nevertheless he was still the same cheerful self and wished everybody at Forres Highland Games all the best.
“Neville was an honorary member of the Games and was also Chieftain of the Games in 2013. I will miss Neville for over 33 years of friendship.”