Paralympic gold medalist Breanna Clark looks to defend her title in the 400m T20 in Tokyo.
“It feels like a great honor to join Team USA for my second Paralympic games,” Clark said. “Yet I feel confident to continue defending my [gold medal].”
Clark made her Paralympic debut in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro. From that experience, she learned the importance of practicing diligently. She also learned how to maintain a healthy diet and keep her body free of injury.
For Clark, more is at stake than just winning gold in the 400m T20. The Dorsey alum set the world record in the event with a 57.79 time and broke her own record during the world championships at London in 2018 with a 56.35 record.
In June 2018, Clark shaved more time off her world record during the Arizona Grand Prix, running the 400m in 55.99 seconds. She aspires to break her own record another time in Tokyo.
“I am determined to try it again,” Clark said.
Keys to her success is having a strong work ethic, keeping focused, and having a well-balanced body.
The T20 classification is for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Clark was diagnosed with autism at the age of four.
After the Paralympics was pushed to 2021, Clark’s mother and coach Rosalyn Clark had to change up her training regimen. They found and created venues to train.
“We turned our home into a gym with instructed training exercise and then we head to the parks, even the beach,” Clark said. “We usually go to [Rancho Cienega Park] on the track by sneaking through the homeless camp where they cut holes in the gate.”
Rosalyn ordered various weights and training equipment so Clark could work on different types of drills in their backyard.
“If it wasn’t in the backyard, it was in the living room, it was in the den,” Rosalyn said. “We have a whole set of weights and balls and constraints and everything that we can use to take the place of being at the weight room.”
Clark desired to remain dominant in her event and she knew her opponents were working to outrun her. This motivated Clark to train throughout the Quarantine.
Prior to heats, Rosalyn would explain to Clark how she wants her to run the race. Clark then imagines herself doing what Rosalyn told her. This helps her stay focused when performing on the world’s biggest stages.
“When I calm myself down, I picture myself doing what we practiced for being able to zip across those turns, reaching the finish line without stopping,” Clark said.
She also has a sports psychologist to help her manage the nervousness she experiences on the day of competition.
Rosalyn won a silver medal during the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics as a member of the Team USA women’s 4x400m relay team. Despite Rosalyn giving her opportunities to choose other coaches, Clark wanted Rosalyn to be her coach through the years.
“It’s an honor to be able to coach my daughter,” Rosalyn said. “She rather for me to coach her because I understand and I know her better … whatever I give her, she’s willing to do it and she trusts me. I think that’s why the connection works so well.”
The Women’s 400m T20 final will take place on August 31.