1960 —
Clova Court

"It's late, but I'm getting there by hard work"

Clova Court completed her first heptathlon in 1987, aged 27, describing it “as a disaster and a killer” Undaunted, she decided to aim for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Following in the footsteps of Judy Simpson and with Denise Lewis at her heels, she fulfilled that ambition, finishing in 19th place with a score of 5994

She was also part of a hugely successful Birchfield ladies’ team. In the semi-finals of the GRE cup in 1992 Clova won the 200m, 100m hurdles, javelin and anchored the 4x400m relay team to a win; she was “athlete of the match”.

Leon Hickman wrote of the team in the Birmingham Post “From the youngest member, Katharine Merry, 17, to head prefect, Clova Court, 33, they were an ideal blend”.

Her form continued into the UK heptathlon championships of 1993, where she retained the title with 5,957 while 20-year-old Denise Lewis scored 5,774. She also won silver in the European Women’s Club final in the 100m hurdles and ran 3rd leg in the 4X100m relay team to win silver for Birchfield in a new club record of 45.1.

Her achievements at both Club and International level were recognised by the award of the Leah Wright trophy in both 1992 and 1993.

In 1994 both Clova and Denise travelled to the 1994 Commonwealth games, but Clova withdrew from the heptathlon on day one and, after a serious fall in the 100m hurdles, she announced her retirement from heptathlon to concentrate on the hurdles. Nevertheless, she subsequently went on to compete and win an AAA heptathlon title and to finish 8th for England at the 1998 Commonwealth games with 5,421 points.

Interviewed for Channel 4 before the 2012 Olympics Clova described how, in the absence of funding during the peak of her competitive career, she worked from 6.30am as a manager in a petrol station, squeezing in up to five hours of training in her lunch break and after work. She explained that the heptathlon was a particularly tough sport to fund and admitted to having no social life during that time, but was fortunate to have her husband Howard as her coach, and an understanding boss.