LONDON 2012: Confident Clarke looks to the future not Olympic past
GREAT Britain hockey forward Jonty Clarke would love to emulate the golden glory of 1988 this summer – but insists the class of 2012 are not obsessed with the past.
ROLE MODEL: Great Britain's 1988 hockey gold medal team an inspiration but not an obsession, insists Reading striker Jonty Clarke (Ady Kerry)
Sean Kerly famously guided Britain’s men to an unlikely Olympic gold medal 24 years ago in Seoul, but Team GB have been unable to build on that success ever since, with fifth positions at the last two Games their best finishes.
However, Reading frontman Clarke, who bagged a double to help Britain defeat Korea to claim fifth in Beijing four years ago, does anticipate an improvement at London 2012 – but not one rooted from former glories.
“Being compared to the 1988 Great Britain team that won gold is something that gets talked about every four years,” said Clarke.
“What those guys achieved was amazing and we would all like to achieve the same thing. But we are certainly not regularly comparing ourselves to them and think we have got to look up to what they did.
“The game has changed so much since 1988. The speed of the game, the rolling substitutions, the self-pass – so much of it is different. It is almost hard to compare to what we are doing now to what was happening in 1988.
“We are doing it for ourselves, and having the honour and privilege to represent our country and aim for a gold medal is a massive thing for us.”
Great Britain tied a three match test series against South Africa – who need to emerge victorious from the six-team Olympic Qualification Tournament in Japan in May to book their London 2012 place – earlier this month.
Clarke netted in a 3-1 second-fixture win during the gruelling two-week training camp in Stellenbosch, but was absent from the Great Britain side that could only finish sixth in the Champions Trophy in Auckland last December.
In contrast, Britain’s women impressively seized silver in the corresponding event in February, but the men’s squad insisted they were in the middle of heavy training and not at full match sharpness.
And despite the 2009 European champions – who compete as Great Britain at the Olympics – reclaiming fourth spot in the world rankings, 31-year-old Clarke has warned his side not to become complacent in their ambition of medalling at the Riverbank Arena.
“You can’t just come and out say we are going to win a gold medal,” he added.
“In track and field or cycling, you have a good idea of the time you need to run, or height you have to jump, or how fast you have to swim. Maybe then you can be a little more clear-cut.
“But there are a huge amount of external factors that could affect us during the course of the Games. There could be injuries to key players, we could have a couple of umpiring decisions go against us – there are all sorts of things that could happen.
“So I think to come out now and say we are going to win a gold medal would be naive because there are so many things that can happen between now and then. But we think it is possible and that is the expressed goal of our group.
“Although every other team that is going has the same ambition, so you can’t disrespect what they are doing by saying we are definitely going to win a gold medal.”
All 630,000 tickets are sold out for the London 2012 hockey tournament, with the world’s top 12 nations battling it out on the blue pitch from July 29 to August 11.
And Clarke believes Britain will be able to pit themselves against the top sides with confidence after putting in the hours on the training pitch – starting with the Olympic test event in early May.
“We came fifth in Beijing, which for our ranking at that time was a good performance by us. That showed us that we could compete with the best teams in the world,” added Clarke.
“We have built on from that, and there will be an element of relief this summer if things go the way we want them to because we have all committed so much in achieving that goal.”
© Sportsbeat 2012