Zion Clark holds three Guinness record titles – Fastest 20m walking on hands – February 15, 2021; Highest box jump with the hands – October 13, 2022; and Most diamond pushups in three minutes – October 13, 2022.
With “NO EXCUSES” tattooed on his back, the record-breaking athlete has succinctly shown that these words were not inked to reflect a fancy lifestyle, but a code that he lives by. He continuously pushes beyond his limits to leave a legacy that stands out as a source of motivation to others, most especially, persons with special needs.
On February 15, 2021, he attempted the fastest 20m walking on hands at a gym in his permit high in Massillon, Ohio, USA, smashing the record in 4.78 seconds.
“Before I knew it, I had crossed the finish line! – A rush of euphoria surged through my body as the official timer called out 4.78 seconds!”
On October 13, 2022, he achieved two more record titles – the highest bust jump with the hands and the most diamond pushups in three minutes at the Dog Pound gym in Los Angeles, California.
With a minimum required height of 24 inches (0.61 meters) set for him, Zion effortlessly leaped from the ground onto a box using only his two hands to score the height. Confident of even jumping higher, the height of the box was increased to 30 inches (0.76 meters), which Zion again, achieved on the first attempt. Still eager to go higher, he reached an incredible height of 33 inches (0.83) meters.
He attempted the advanced form of classic pushups called diamond pushups – an exercise requiring the two hands to stay close to one another rather than spreading apart while the body is pressed up. In attempting the record, he failed the initial attempt with 48 seconds and 54 pushups left.
However, in his usual resilient and ‘no excuse” mindset, he returned stronger in a second-round attempt and achieved a remarkable 248 diamond pushups within three minutes.
When asked which record attempt proved more difficult, he shared that the most diamond pushups in three minutes were the hardest “[the pushups] was definitely a mind over matter.”
“Doing those pushups, you cap 100, 150, 200, that is when real pain sets in, one of two things are going to happen – you are going to fold and stop, or you are going to say screw it and keep pushing until you achieved that goal,” said Zion.
Eager to achieve more feats, he attempted two additional record titles – most parallel bar dips in one minute with a 40lb pack and the fastest 5m rope climb carrying a 40lb pack (male); however, both were too challenging.
Zion, who has inspired the world with his resilience, determination, focus, and ‘ability in disability,’ had a very challenging road to success, starting from his childhood.
“There’s nobody faster on their hands than me in the world. Now, nobody can do more push-ups than me in under three minutes, and nobody can jump off their hands higher than me,” said Zion.
“This means that I am number one. Out of the seven billion people on the planet, I am number one in those three categories.”
Zion was born without legs due to caudal regression syndrome – a rare health condition that causes abnormal development of the lower end of the spine.
“In my case, my birth mother did not take care of her body at all while she was pregnant with me, she was on a multitude of different drugs, and that caused me to have defects.”
“It made my life harder from the get-go because I had to go through two different surgeries for my back, just so I could sit up straight.”
Zion stayed in the foster care system for more than 16 years, waiting patiently and hopeful of finding a permanent family. During these periods, he experienced painful moments.
“I grew up in the foster care system for the first 17 years of my life, and in that, there’s a lot of pain and a lot of abuse,” he said.
“In turn, it made my life really rough. I didn’t get adopted until I was almost homeless. That’s what it took for me to be adopted, it was being almost put out in the street.”
Eventually, he was adopted by Kimberli Hawkins when he passed the age of the foster care system, and the two share a loving bond, with Zion thankful for the adoption.
“My mom took me in and gave me a purpose. A lot of people passed me by and wrote me off as a problem child, and she took a chance on me and gave me the stability I needed so I could focus on my athletics.”
“To me, she’s not a foster mother. A lot of people say foster mother and I’m not a big fan of that because she is my mother.”
While in school, he continued to experience bullying; “I did get bullied when I was a kid. I got shoved in lockers, I have been beat up pretty bad. If I could talk to all those people who bullied me, beat me up and really disrespected me, do you know what I’d say? I’d say thank you, because it really made me stronger.”
“The world is a cruel place; it’s up to you to decide how to live in it.”
“Nobody is going to get to that top level if they don’t put in the work. I’m willing to put in the work and willing to make the sacrifices.”
“The message I would give to kids with disabilities or anyone with a disability would be – It’s going to be hard, but if you’ve got the heart and the determination, you can go get what’s yours. If you’re disabled or you’re not disabled, the message stays the same.”
He went into wrestling in elementary school and eventually became an incredible wrestler in high school. He moved on to build a successful professional career in track and field wrestling.
Zion’s three Guinness world records are among his noteworthy achievements, including All- American wrestler at Kent State University, and two-time state track champion.
“I will always work with what I’ve got because I don’t really have any other cards that are dealt to me… I’ve got to play them the right way so I can be successful and win the card game.”
Zion has bigger ambitions for his future and trains regularly with his training manager Craig Levinson, with eyes on becoming the first-ever American to compete in both the Olympic (wrestling) and Paralympics (wheelchair) games in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“I fight on December 17 and I’m going to knock the dude out and that’s just how it’s going to go,” said Zion.
“Once it comes out, buy my pay-per-view and watch me knock somebody out. That’s what’s next.”
He offered encouraging words to people facing any form of difficulty. “The sun is going to come up tomorrow and it’s going to come up the day after that.”
“Find what makes you happy and keep being yourself, and one day you could be beating my records.”