In a career that spanned from 1983 to 1993, Darren Clark burst onto the athletics scene as a teenager. With his good looks and natural ability he became the pin-up boy of Australian sport, Clark is regarded as one of Australia’s greatest ever 400m runners, still holding the men’s national record with a time of 44.38 seconds. Becoming one of Australia’s most dominant quarter milers, he ran under 45 seconds 11 times.
Beginning his international career in 1983, at just 17 years of age, Clark competed in the first athletics World Championships in Helsinki, making it to the semi-finals of the 400m with 46.36sec. He was also the British AAA 400m champion and held the world record at the time for his age with 45.05sec. That year he was also the Australian junior champion in the 100m, 200m, and 400m and held the Australian U18 and U20 100m record of 10.47sec.
The following year, he defended his British title in the 400m and won the 400m at the London Grand Prix, the Bissellett Games in Oslo, and then the 300m at Gateshead, England with a Commonwealth record of 32.26sec. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, Clark led the field with 80m to go in the Olympic final of the 400m. He ran an Australian record in the semi-final with 44.77sec but bettered this in the final by 0.02sec. He maintains that he was beaten out of bronze by at least one drug cheat. By the end of the season, he was ranked fourth in the world in the 400m.
1985 saw Clark again win the British AAA 400m title and he finished 3rd at the World Cup in the 200m in Canberra with 20.78sec. He maintained his ranking of fourth in the 400m and headed into 1986 with great confidence. At the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, Clark won silver in the 400m with 45.98sec and the 4x400m relay. He also won his fourth consecutive British AAA 400m title, which at the time was the most ever achieved by any athlete. He won bronze in the 400m at the Zurich Grand Prix and won gold in the 300m in Belfast in another Commonwealth record of 31.88sec. He was the Australian open 400m champion with 45.69sec and maintained his ranking of 4th in the world over 400m.
1987 was not as successful for Clark, finishing 16th in the 400m and 13th in the 4x400m relay at the World Championships in Rome and was the New South Wales state champion in the 100m, 200m, and 400m, the first time this had been achieved by an athlete in 70 years. The following year saw Clark prepare for his second Olympics, Seoul. Competing in the 400m semi-final, he broke another Australian record, running 44.38, a record that still stands. In the final, he finished fourth with 44.55sec and in the 4x400m relay, Australia finished sixth.
The following year, Clark was the Australian 200m and 400m champion before preparing for his next Commonwealth Games, to be held in Auckland, 1990. Here, he finished with gold in the 400m in 44.60sec. He also competed in the 200m, finishing 12th. Unable to continue his winning streak at the British AAA championships, Clark finished with third in the 400m.
Clark took some time away from the track in 1991 and played a season of rugby league with the Balmain Tigers, scoring 11 tries, and also competed in the World Sevens Tournament. Rejuvenated, he returned to the track in 1992 and was selected for the Barcelona Olympic team however was forced to withdraw due to injuries to his Achilles tendon. However with training and persistence, Clark returned to the track in 1993 and won bronze in the 400m at the World Indoor Championships in Toronto, and won his fifth national 400m title in 45.64sec. In 1994 he was defeated for the first and only time over 400m in Australia with a narrow second to Dean Capobianco at the Grand Prix meeting in Sydney.
After some years in retirement and having taken up athletics coaching, Clark was attempting to make another comeback but was involved in a car accident in 2000, injuring his back. In 2001, he was appointed as the scholarship coach at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Clark still holds four Australian records, the U20 400m (44.75 set in LA, 1984), the national open 400m (44.38 set in Seoul 1988) and as part of the 4x400m relay team (2:59.70 set in LA, 1984). He also holds the U18 national 200m with Paul Greene (20.90 set in Sydney, 1982).