Aberdeen Olympian Zoey Clark is sketching out her plans for what promises to be a hectic summer of competition in 2022.
The 26-year-old 400m specialist, who competed in the 4x400m relays at Tokyo, is about to open a new chapter in her career following the decision to part company with long-time coach Eddie McKenna.
Her partner, former Scotland international and sprint champion Ryan Oswald, is to take over as Clark’s coach and the couple have already started to put their ideas together.
Clark, who combines her international athletics career with a full-time job as a process engineer, is eager to get going again.
She said: “I’ve had a longer break than usual at the end of the season as it has taken time to come down from the Olympics.
“But I’m back on the track this week and I’m looking forward to it.
“Ryan will lead my coaching going forward. I’ll be training with a group of four, but hopefully that number will grow. I think it will be a fun group to work with.”
“Otherwise nothing much has changed. I’m still working from home and I’ll be training at Aberdeen Sports Village. I am being positive about it and I expect everything to go smoothly.
“As far as changes to training are concerned, we always look at areas we need to focus on. But I’m experienced, so I know what type of training I respond well to so I don’t expect there to be any drastic changes.”
“Ryan has been helpful over the years and I feel positive about the programme we have for the next few months.”
Clark has plenty to look ahead to as 2022 offers a bundle of major championship opportunities.
It kicks off with the world championships in Eugene, Oregon from July 15-24. That’s followed by the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham from July 30-August 7. And it concludes with the European championships in Munich from August 15-21.
Clark said: “It’s going to be a crazy year. Will I aim to do all three? It’s a big ask but I’m not ruling anything out at the moment.
“As athletes we don’t like to turn down opportunities. So, my sensible head might say it’s not on to do all three, but I’m not going to discount it.
“If I feel I’m in the right shape to tackle them all, then of course I’ll go for it.”
The Aberdeen athlete has been a mainstay of Great Britain’s successful 4x400m relay squad over the past four years, winning medals at world and European level, both indoors and outdoors.
She aims to continue with that, but is determined to make a bigger impact in the individual 400m.
Clark said: “I really want to make a breakthrough as an individual 400m runner.
“I didn’t get many opportunities to run individual 400s this year and my personal best time has been the same since 2018 so I really want to adjust that.
“I’m also excited about the Commonwealth Games. I only get the chance to run for Scotland every four years, so that makes it very special. The Commonwealths maybe aren’t seen in the same light as the worlds but they are still important.”
Clark has still to put the fine detail onto her plans but doesn’t think her schedule will allow for a serious indoor campaign this winter.
She said: “As it’s going to be so busy next summer I won’t have an indoor season focus. That’s not to say I won’t do any indoor races. I may do for a bit of fun, but I doubt if I’ll target any of the major indoor championships.”
Clark and McKenna’s parting of the ways is amicable
Zoey Clark and Eddie McKenna stress that their decision to part company has been reached amicably and the pair remain on good terms.
Clark said: “Eddie has taken me from my very first time on a track all the way back in 2009 to the very highest level in sport.
“We have shared in the ups and lows that sport brings, been through countless training sessions, competitions together and have managed to pick up five major medals along the way.
“Quite a journey for an athlete/coach duo and one that I am so proud and happy to have shared with Eddie.
“We have parted on the best of terms and are looking forward to what the future holds.”
“Obviously it was an extremely difficult decision. Certainly the hardest one I’ve had to make since becoming an athlete. Eddie has coached me for almost 12 years which a long time to be with someone in that capacity.
“We work to an Olympic cycle, so if you are going to make a big change it’s best to do it at the beginning of a new cycle.
“There’s only three years to the next Olympics, instead of the usual four, so it’s a shorter schedule. I felt that if I didn’t make the change now, it wouldn’t be a good idea to do it at any point over the next couple of years.
“So, the decision is not a response to anything that’s happened this year. Things have been difficult with covid and various things but I think we handled it well. I made the Olympics which was always our target and I’m happy with how I ran.
“I just feel I’ve been with the same coach for 12 years, which is an extremely long time, and I’m just ready to make a change, take a different step and get a new stimulus.
“It’s a big risk, I know that, but I feel I need to take it. I know it could backfire but I’m feeling positive so we’ll see what happens.”
McKenna added: “It has been my privilege to coach Zoey. We agreed that we would work together until the Tokyo Olympic cycle was completed. Now Zoey has decided that she wants to move on to try something different and as her coach I respect her wishes.
“But it’s not just me, there has been a team working with Zoey which includes Karen Young (Physio),Donald Pirie (strength and conditioning) and Colin Gallacher (performance lifestyle) and we all wish Zoey nothing but the very best in the future.”