Grateful Cheavon Clarke hailed GB Boxing as the ‘best in the world’ and says the programme’s extensive support network has helped struggling athletes battle through the darkest days of lockdown, writes Will Jennings.
The Jamaican-born heavyweight had his Tokyo hopes snatched away when the British qualifying event at London’s Copper Box Arena was cancelled last year.
That led to a dramatic change in GB boxers’ training schedule, but the programme was swiftly on hand to send Clarke – and his teammates – vital equipment such as bikes, weights and punchbags.
Regular athlete contact and psychological support bolstered their offering and Clarke, a 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, says he couldn’t be prouder to be front and centre of the ‘unbelievable’ organisation.
“GB Boxing is the best programme you could wish to be on,” said the 30-year-old, who is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo.
“It’s second to none and is the best programme in England. If your programme’s better than GB Boxing as a whole, you’re doing something special.
“The staff, the coaches, the backroom staff – these guys work tirelessly so us, as athletes, are in the best frame of mind possible.
“It’s unbelievable what they do – and words can’t give enough gratitude to it.
“It was such a life-changing event for the Olympic Games not to happen [in 2020]. But the programme started organising weights for us and offering us bags and bikes if we needed them.
“They were on the phone for support, and it made it a lot easier to go through. I, for one, am very grateful for how I’ve been supported through the pandemic.
“It’s not a nice thing to wake up with dark shadows in your head and feeling like you can’t speak to anybody – and it’s imperative we support each other.”
Clarke last scooped a major medal for Team GB at the 2019 European Games, where he emulated his Gold Coast medal exploits by winning bronze in Minsk.
The Kent puncher lost in the quarterfinals at the 2019 World Championships and was champing at the bit to make his Olympic debut before last year’s setback.
He now faces a crucial bout later this year to realise his Japanese dreams, before a further competition will take place to determine heavyweight seedings in Tokyo.
The Games are set to take place without overseas fans so Clarke, a 2017 European Championship silver medallist, is throwing his weight behind Purplebricks’ Home Support campaign.
He was speaking at Churchill’s Boxing Gym in Lambeth, where he was on hand to present a stunning painting produced by Rio 2016 silver medallist Joe Joyce to Len Trusty and Jason Weeks – two of his old coaches who he keeps in regular contact with to this day.
And Clarke, who honed his craft at Gravesham Amateur Boxing Club, said: “Jason and Len don’t want recognition, but it’s really good to present this to them as a thank you for all the support they’ve given me.
“This is just a small token – it’s always good to give back to the people that supported you. And what better way than with Purplebricks and Team GB coming together with the Home Support campaign?”
Len, a long-term coach at Gravesham ABC added: “It’s appreciated. We’re not really looking for payback – it’s just about wanting Chev to do well and the best he can do.
“I will appreciate the painting because of where it’s come from – and I know it’s come from the heart. I will find somewhere to hang it – probably up in my office, and I’m happy.”
Cheavon Clarke is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo with the same amazing home support as London 2012. Visit @PurplebricksUK. To enter the draw to receive one of 2,020 limited edition prints, visit https://page.purplebricks.co.uk/teamgb_homesupport/