Two-time NCAA shot put champion Jordan Clarke, in his second year as a professional, has appeared in two Diamond League meetings this season and placed second in both. This week, he will attempt to qualify for the World Championships in Beijing by finishing in the top three at the USA Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Dan McQuaid: Are you pleased with your results so far this season?
Jordan Clarke: Rome was my first diamond league that I’ve been to, I was very pleased with the result, a season best. Actually, I kind of expected it. I’ve thrown farther in training than I have in meets a few times this year, which is the total opposite of me. I usually I convert two to three feet over my training throws in a meet
Dan McQuaid: Are you still training with Dave Dumble, your college coach at Arizona State?
Jordan Clarke: Yes, and it is going really well. He watches me train two or three times per week. It’s different not being in the collegiate system any more. Last year we played with a lot of different stuff, trying to get used to the professional scene and how long the season was. I love Dave, he’s a fantastic coach, very patient, very knowledgeable. It’s nice now since I’m on my own, we bounce ideas off each other.
Dan McQuaid: It must be nice to have that continuity with your coach.
Jordan Clarke: I like the consistency. A lot of people switch coaches, and sometimes you need it. Sometimes you outgrow a coach or it is not the right program for you, but I’ve been having success with Dave since my collegiate career and there are still a lot of little things that I need to piece together. We mesh really well together. We get along really well and there is so much more that he can teach me. He is so easy going, he’s the best.
Dan McQuaid: Have you changed your technique since becoming a professional?
Jordan Clarke: No. Honestly, the stuff I’ve been working on now we have talked about over the years, but we had to establish a firm base of fundamentals first. For example, since I got to college one of the biggest things I had to work on was my entry to the middle, and it’s still something I have to work on every single year every single throw. It is more solidified now, so we are finally getting to a point where we are fine tuning the details.
Dan McQuaid: Let’s talk about your entry. When do you want right foot to leave concrete when you are coming out of the back of the ring?
Jordan Clarke: As fast as possible. The concept that we have is that I do not want my upper body to lead me to the middle. I try to create a stretch reflex out of the back kind of like stretching a rubber band.
Dan McQuaid: Where do you feel that stretch?
Jordan Clarke: Probably right at ninety. Like when I’m starting my windup, right when I can get out to ninety degrees, right before I start driving to the middle that’s when I can start feeling that stretch reflex. If I can create it back there it is a lot easier for me to keep it across the ring.
Dan McQuaid: You mean feeling a stretch as in the ball is dragging behind?
Jordan Clarke: Yes. Right behind my hip.
Dan McQuaid: I spoke with the German coach Torsten Schmidt recently, and his discus throwers take a different approach out of the back.
Jordan Clarke: Right, they keep their right on the ground longer at the back. There are so many ways to accomplish similar goals. Every athlete is different. As long as you hit the correct positions, as long as it works for you that’s what matters.
Dan McQuaid: So you want to get the right foot off early, then how wide do you want it to be on the sweep to the center?
Jordan Clarke: I don’t really think directly about how wide it goes. It will naturally go wider the more balanced you are out of the back over your left and the longer and more patient you are. So if you execute the entry correctly you are naturally going to have a wider sweep. For example, for me if I am leaning and my left shoulder is diving in my sweep shortens up significantly. If I am heavy to the middle of the circle, diving in, I’m going to be heavy on my left leg at the front and that is going to take off at least a meter from my throw. I won’t have the proper angle on my release. It kind of shortens up the path of the ball.
Dan McQuaid: Do you push off your left foot out of back?
Jordan Clarke: Yes.
Dan McQuaid: Significantly or just a flick?
Jordan Clarke: It is very significant if I don’t feel good that day! If I’m feeling good, I don’t have to think about it. I have to work on it more if I’m sore or sluggish. The biggest thing is to get it off early and that it’s not trailing significantly coming into the center.
Dan McQuaid: Do you use the “squeeze the knees” cue?
Jordan Clarke: Yeah, I do. We do a lot of drills in the fall where you really emphasize that.
Dan McQuaid: Do you have a cue that you use for rhythm?
Jordan Clarke: If you ever talk to Dave I’ve probably had six or seven cues over my career. We’ve used a term called “big circle/little circle” where basically you want along and slow rhythm out of the back then fast and quick in the front. One cue that I’ve thought is “work, waaaait, work.” I work out of the back, and then when I am driving in to the center I kind of float and wait on the throw. Then right when my right foot lands, back to work.
Dan McQuaid: What else has helped you develop such smooth rhythm?
Jordan Clarke: It’s Dave’s program. He’s very big on if you feel like you are working too hard, you are not being efficient. You need to be relaxed and stretchy through the ring, not tight.
Dan McQuaid: You’ve always been great about maintaining your form in big meets.
Jordan Clarke: Dave prepares us really well. For example, at USA’s last year we did what the rest of the world does and had qualification in the morning and then the finals later that day, so I would do a light practice in the morning and then take a nap or whatever and practice again later in the day to get used to the rhythm of it. That’s what Dave does. He helps you to be mentally ready for what you are going to face.
Dan McQuaid: What are your weight room numbers these days?
Jordan Clarke: I haven’t caught any of my Olympic lifts since my senior year in college. I tore a tendon in my index finger during my senior year, so I don’t catch anything now, I just high pull. My best clean in college was 182.5 kilos. I snatched 138 kilos. I tripled 500 pounds on the bench about a year and a half ago, but I haven’t maxed anything for about two years now. I’ve done 550 pounds for a bench press double off of a pad. I’ve dead lifted 765 pounds.
Dan McQuaid: You have had back issues much of your career. You’re still able to deadlift?
Jordan Clarke: I sumo dead lift. I can’t squat any more, but I still use the Pit Shark and sumo deadlift and do lots of plyometrics. I know that my power level is there. I know that I am capable of throwing well over twenty-two meters. I’m still learning how to apply that power to the implement. I’m still lifting hard and getting stronger but the biggest thing is learning how to apply that to the implement.
Dan McQuaid: How have you supported yourself since college?
Jordan Clarke: This year has been a lot better than my first year. My first year was brutal! I was working about forty hours per week and training about twenty. I was working at a local supplement company in Arizona called Hi-Health as a nutritional counselor. It wasn’t a very difficult job, but it was time consuming and I was on my feet all day. Working forty hours a week and training I couldn’t recover. This year is a lot better. I’m working part time for a different supplement company called Cellucor. I get to make my own hours.
Dan McQuaid: Are you looking forward to the US Championships?
Jordan Clarke: Yes. Reese Hoffa made it a little easier on us all by winning the Diamond League last year and getting an automatic entry to Worlds. So three more of us can still go. But it is going to be a battle!