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Elizabeth Clay

Age

29

Place of Birth

Wahroonga, NSW

Hometown

Sydney NSW

Junior Club

Hornsby District Little Athletics

Senior Club

Gold Coast Victory

Coach

Sharon Hannan/David Reid

Olympic History

Tokyo 2020

Paris 2024

High School

Loreto Normanhurst

Career Events

Athletics Womens 100m Hurdles

 

Elizabeth's Story

A keen dancer when she was very young, Liz Clay would go to athletics to watch her younger brother Harry compete. She got bored just watching him from the stands and decided to jump the fence and start her sporting journey at Hornsby Little Athletics in the under-10s. Over the next decade, her career evolved primarily as a hurdler, but constant injuries hampered her career.

Clay was selected for her junior international debut at the 2014 World Juniors in the 100m hurdles, but had to withdraw from the team when she broke her navicular bone weeks before the team departed.

After completing an exercise and sports science degree in Sydney, she relocated to the Gold Coast for coaching.


Clay had been making modest improvements in her hurdle times but was still plagued by injuries every year. It was a tough time for Clay, she felt all her competitors and teammates were progressing and achieving the things she wanted to and knew she could achieve.

During these years she found the mental side of competing very difficult as she never knew what the outcome was going to be or if her injuries would flare up which caused her a lot of stress.

Clay recalled competing during her first season without injury. She said it felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

Supporting her on her journey since arriving on the Gold Coast was leading Australian hurdles coach, Sharon Hannan, who had guided Sally Pearson to Olympic gold in 2012. Another influence was a boss of Clay's, named Dimitri, a former professional tennis player.

Her start to the 2018/19 summer was promising, running a 100m personal best and two good hurdle times of 13.39 wind-assisted and 13.43 into a strong 1.9m/s wind, but days before the national championships she fractured her fibula in training.

So determined, she was not deterred, and embarked on a massive winter of training. Finally, in the 2019/20 summer the breakthrough happened. She ran a substantial 100m personal best, then in her pet event, the 100m hurdles she broke her now three-year-old hurdles best running 13.26, but that was just a hint of what was to come.

Clay went on to run a stunning 12.94 in Melbourne, to become the fourth-fastest in Australian history.

She just continued that progression in the summer of 2020/21, setting two PB's of 12.84, then 12.72, both Olympic qualifiers, as she became the second fastest in Australian history. 

Selected for her Olympic debut at Tokyo she was superb, second in her heat, then third in her semi-final. She clocked a PB 12.71 to just miss a place in the final by just 0.04 seconds.

"I'm gutted….to miss this final by 0.04 seconds is so disappointing,” Clay said. “I can't believe it I wanted it so bad. It's been such a long journey to get here. I think I held my own out there and believe I'm good enough to be in the final. A personal best by 0.01 is great, but that's nothing compared to what making the final would have meant."

In early 2022 Clay made the semi-finals of the 60m hurdles at the World Indoors and in April defended her National title in a very quick time of 12.72 – just 0.01 seconds outside her PB.

Mid-year competing at the world championships in Eugene, there would be disaster when in the heats she fell and broke her foot (Cuneiform bone). It required two surgeries, three months apart. Rehabilitation was slow as she was on crutches and in a cast/boot for six weeks and didn’t run for five months.

She returned to hurdling in mid-2023 in Europe with a promising time of 13.02 (wind assisted) but after spraining her ankle while training in Europe, she finished her season and returned to Australia.

Her return continued in early 2024 with a series of good runs eventually back under 13 seconds at the Queensland Championships and Sydney Track Classic.

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