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Mayor celebrates Olympian and ‘Sportswoman of the year’

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Dudley based Olympian and former European Cup Winner, Clova Court called in to see the Mayor of Dudley this week to celebrate her most recent title win.

Clova, who was born in Jamaica, moved to Dudley at the age of 17 and has made it her home ever since. A hugely successful heptathlete and hurdler, she represented Great Britain at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona as well as the World Championships, European Indoor Championships and Commonwealth Games.

She represented Great Britain at international level in a number of different disciplines: heptathlon, 100 m hurdles, 200 metres, javelin, long jump, sprint relay team, plus indoor 60 m hurdles, pentathlon, and 4 x 200 m relay team. Clova has made more than 57 appearances for the United Kingdom and is one of the few former Olympians who has captained a British team, and then gone on to manage and coach a British team.

And it is this passion for coaching for which Clova has recently been recognised. After her retirement from competing, she continues to coach young people across the Black country, alongside a post at the Q3 Academy in Birmingham. Clova, with her husband Howard, is a volunteer coach at the Tipton Sports Academy and Tividale Park and has worked with young people in the midlands for more than 20 years.

Her desire to give back to her community and encourage young people to follow their athletic dreams led to Clova winning Sunday Times Grass Roots Sportswoman of the year last November. Clova’s role as a coach and mentor is entirely voluntary and unpaid, and she has worked with hundreds of young people over the years, many of whom have gone on to pursue a career as professional athletes.

Clova took part in track sports while in Jamacia but started to think about it as a possible career once she moved to England and began training in new disciplines, fitting it in around education, work and family commitments. Clova began competing in the 1980s at county level and retired at the age of 40 after having represented the UK at Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

Clova has overcome injury and setbacks but continued to compete. In 1994 in Canada she had a terrible fall in the hurdles, losing her silver medal position. Doctors thought she would never compete at world level again but seven months later she won the UK title and made the world championships semi-final in the sprint hurdles.

In the 1998 commonwealth in Malaysia, Clova was stretchered off after hurting her back in the long jump, but with absolute grit and determination managed to jog the 800m allowing her to complete the Heptathlon, having already beaten the odds to compete at the age of 38.

Her final flourish was, at the age of 40, representing the UK at international level in the 100m hurdles which had never been done in any sprint event, with Clova breaking the age 40 world record along the way. It is this determination and drive to succeed despite the obstacles which Clova brings to her mentoring and coaching.

The Mayor of Dudley, Councillor Anne Millward, said:

Clova is a remarkable woman, she’s had this incredible athletic career, representing the UK at the highest level. But then she has gone on to become a coach and mentor, quietly and without any desire for praise and recognition, but simply because she thinks it’s the right thing to do.
Her passion, skills and encouragement mean that hundreds of young people across the West Midlands have benefited from the rewards of training with a true professional – learning not just how to be the best athlete they can, but about commitment, resilience and ambition. The work Clova and her husband Howard do, shows the importance of grassroots community activism and I was truly honoured to meet her.

Clova Court, said:

I came to athletics relatively late – my twenties! - and had to learn a lot from scratch, hurdles and javelin for example were not things I’d ever done before. I had to work really hard to learn these new disciplines, competing against people who’d been refining their skills since their teens. It was challenging, but so rewarding and I just love working with young people who have that same spark. Volunteering means that Howard and I can help them become the best they can be.
I was so proud to win the Sunday times Awards because it was for my volunteer work at grass roots, and also because it was down to a national public vote against other sports and amazing volunteers.
Sport, grass roots sport in particular is struggling while school sport is in a dire situation nationally, hopefully winning this award can begin to highlight that situation.


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