British sprint hurdler Lawrence Clarke first made an impact on the world international athletics when he finished a surprise fourth at London 2012. Following an injury-strewn two years, the 25-year-old is returning to his best form and looking to announce himself to the world once more.

The British press has dubbed Lawrence Clarke as the poshest man in sport. This assessment is based on the fact that he was schooled at Eton (alma mater to Princes William and Harry, 19 prime ministers and Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley), counts the Roosevelts as not-too-distant relatives and his uncle is a Conservative Member of Parliament.

It is a lazy conclusion to reach. Clarke is proud of his background and familial ties, and though he is undoubtedly pretty damn posh, to label him solely as a well-heeled gent who happens to run fast is to undermine the true complexity of his character.

That said, the competitive environment of his Eton upbringing has certainly helped him in the dog-eat-dog world of track and field.

“[Eton] is quite similar in a way because it’s so competitive,” he says. “Everyone’s out to win something. The school doesn’t really recognise someone unless they win something.

“When I come to this [athletics] environment I still don’t think I’m good enough, even though I compete at the highest level. I always want to strive to do better.”

Athletics was not Clarke’s first love. Growing up he was mad about mountaineering: he admits rock and ice climbing was “all I wanted to do”. By the age of 13 he had climbed Mont Blanc, but at 15 he witnessed a German fall to his death, an experience he describes as “haunting”, so he turned his back on the mountains.

Lawrence Clarke ()

PASSION: Exploring the Alps aged 15

He discovered his pace after taking up rugby and finding he was much faster than everyone else. After success at youth level (including third in the 2008 English Schools Championships and first in the 2009 European Junior Championships) he was selected for the 2010 Commonwealth Youth Games, where he first made acquaintance with his current coach Malcolm Arnold.

Though he found it through a roundabout route, Clarke clearly loves his sport. He still talks with zeal about men of mountains like Chris Bonington and Edmund Hillary, but is equally enthused when recalling performances and times set by Aries Merritt, Liu Xiang and Colin Jackson.

He passionately pinpoints moments from his past that have sculpted his athletic psyche. For instance after spending the summer working on a vineyard in Bordeaux aged 16, he headed to Barcelona where he saw an Olympic Stadium for the first time.

“It was amazing. That inspired me,” he says.

He recalls being in Valencia when he watched Liu Xiang win the 2007 World Championships. The next year he followed Dayron Robles win the Beijing Olympics from a bar in Vietnam.

“I just thought ‘What is he doing?!’ 12.93 and he basically jogged it. That’s probably the race that hooked me.”

Lawrence Clarke ()

ADVENTURE: If Clarke sounds well travelled it’s because he his. His favourite holiday was spent horse riding with his mother on the steppe of Mongolia (pictured).

When he lined up in the 2012 Olympic final in front of a home crowd, it was a like a red-letter day for the then 22-year-old. He had sneaked through his semi-final as the fastest loser with a PB 13.31. As a result, he lined up against soon-to-be world record holder Aries Merritt, 2011 world champion Jason Richardson, 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles and 2009 world champion Ryan Brathwaite.

It was one of the strongest fields at the London Games. Clarke finished fourth in 13.39, a really quite astonishing feat.

“It was incredible,” he says. “It was so much pressure, but in a way it made me so focused. I knew that I couldn’t make a mistake because then it was a waste of the opportunity.

“If I made a mistake I was coming last. I was expecting to come last. I had to execute the perfect race. With every hurdle that came I just put everything I had into it.

“[At the end] I just curled back and lay there looking at the stars and the crowd cheering and thinking: this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s gone as well as it could have gone.

“I want to put myself in that environment again.”

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BLESSING: Clarke (second left) during his meeting with the Dalai Lama (fourth left)

Clarke is serious when he says that was “the happiest moment” of his life. He is less serious when he attributes that performance to being blessed by the Dalai Lama, a meeting that came about through school.

Those blessings did not last. A broken wrist and a couple of torn hamstrings at the end of 2012 and start of 2013 put paid to his progression at a crucial stage of his career.

He describes the last two years as being a “nightmare”, but following a winter where he has been able to train hard for the first time in his career, Clarke is back and reaching his best form.

“This year I’ve done a lot more flat work, a lot more speed work, which has always been a weakness for me,” he says.

“I’ve been running a lot with Elidh Child [400m hurdler] over the 200m over the winter and it’s built a really strong base. I haven’t been able to do that before.”

It is already paying dividends indoors where, he claims, he is “usually useless”. In February, Clarke posted a new 60mh PB of 7.59 in Mondeville before winning the British indoor title in Sheffield.

Lawrence Clarke ()

GLORY: Clarke competed (and won) against Pascal Martinot Lagarde and Sergey Shubenkov at the 2009 Euro juniors, his first international event

He heads to this weekend’s European Indoor Championships in Prague as captain of the British team and has realistic medal chances. But after his recent setbacks, Clarke is eager to downplay short-term aims.

“The indoors are a step on the way,” he says. “Obviously it’s important to me and I want to do well at the European indoors, but this has really been about targeting those first five hurdles which have always been a weakness.

“I want to go in to the outdoor season with a great transition and work towards late August.”

Late August in 2015 means the Beijing World Championships. He sees that as the first box to tick in a three-year cycle where he has a chance to qualify his talent with more big performances.

“I went to Beijing in 2007 before I was an athlete and I said to myself ‘wouldn’t it be amazing to run in that stadium, the Olympics are there next year’. And hopefully I will be there and running in that stadium.”

After returning so strongly after a testing couple of years, there's every chance that dream will be realised.