Zion Clark has officially set the Guinness World Record for the fastest 20-meter walk on two hands. The athlete, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and actor completed the task on February 15, 2021, at his high school gym in Massillon, Ohio. His end-time was 4.78 seconds. His coach—Olympic Gold Medalist and Guinness World Records title holder Butch Reynolds—helped Clark both mentally and physically prepare for the moment.
“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!’ exclaimed the 23-year-old. “Everybody was excited, I was excited, my girlfriend was excited… it was just a moment man!”
The ambitious record-holder was born with a condition known as caudal regression syndrome which is characterized by abnormal development of the lower (caudal) end of the spine. According to Rare Diseases, the exact cause is unknown, however, researchers believe that both environmental and genetic factors may play a role. Most instances appear to be random and some infants may have a genetic predisposition to developing the disorder. An estimated 1 in 5 per 100,000 live births see a case of caudal regression syndrome, with greater frequency among pregnant people with diabetes.
“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,” Zion shared. “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.”
Clark was put up for adoption soon after he was born and navigated the foster care system for 16 years where he experienced bullying, mental abuse, and underfeeding in various homes. He was adopted by his mother, Kimberli Hawkins, within days of legally aging out.
In his youth, Clark managed to make friends and get good grades in school despite being the target of bullies.
“I did get bullied when I was a kid. I got shoved in lockers, I have been beat up pretty bad,” he remarked. “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.”
In addition to setting records on the track, Clark is also a top-tier wrestler. He hopes to become the first American athlete to compete in both the Olympic (wrestling) and Paralympic (wheelchair racing) Games in 2024.
“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,” he shared. “If you’re disabled or you’re not disabled, the message stays the same.”
Watch Zion Clark’s Guinness World Records video below.