Zion Clark, American Athlete
A Division I wrestler, professional 100-meter track athlete, Guinness World Record holder, motivational speaker and author, Zion Clark has already achieved greatness, but it didn’t come easy. Born in Columbus, OH in 1997, Clark entered the world with Caudal Regression Syndrome, a condition affecting the development of the lower half of his body. Shortly thereafter, he was thrust into foster care.
“I went through the first 17 years of my life in the foster care system where I was severely mistreated, bouncing around nine homes,” he says. Though difficult, he refused to let his physical differences and poor living conditions break him down. After being introduced to wresting in elementary school, everything changed.
“I grew up wrestling since I was seven years old,” he says. “I found a passion for it early on, and even though I was terrible at it, I continued to work hard at it to find out how I could compete with my physical differences. Once it clicked at the start of my senior year in high school, things started looking up.”
Clark finished his senior year with a record of 33-15, just missing qualification for the Ohio High School State Wrestling Championship. In an epic final match, Clark wrestled his opponent through two overtimes, only to fall in sudden death. The crowd went wild. “It was just about getting better every day and staying focused one day at a time.”
He continued to improve his wrestling and academic skills through college at Kent State University while pursuing other athletic goals, as well. His focus now? To become the first American athlete to compete in both the Olympics (wrestling) and the Paralympics (wheelchair racing).
Clark describes a typical day in the life: “I wake up around 6 a.m. and remember the things I am grateful for, where I am in life, and who I have around me. I generally do a lot of my podcasts and interviews mid to late morning, then I weight train and at 4 p.m. every day I practice MMA / Wrestling with a pro team that I work with. They are some highly skilled fighters, but I can hold my own. Then I wind down, eat dinner, possibly give more interviews, and go to bed early to do it all again.”
When asked how he remains so focused, and what advice he would offer to others, he’s clear about the fundamentals: work hard and believe in yourself. “Good things will come if you work hard enough,” he says. “You have to believe in your goals to achieve them and know that you’re good enough to do it. No one else can believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself first.”
He didn’t do it alone, either. “Having a support system is everything, but you have to have people you can rely on and depend on. Just like in Zombies, you need to be able to depend on your teammates. It's more effective to have a team of like-minded people than one person doing it all on their own.”