Megan Clarke began competitively swimming at the age of 7 in her hometown located outside of Birmingham, London—the city where her dreams of one day becoming a world famous Olympian started to brew. Unfortunately, when Megan was 13 and her success was on the rise, she suffered a knee injury that put her swimming aspirations on hold for an entire year. Being unable to train as she once did, Megan tried water polo, a game with just as much, if not more physical intensity, including biting, kicking, scratching and a ton of leg power. Megan was a fast learner and in a few months, water polo became the center of her life.
“Meg was looking for something when she came training in the pool,” said her long-time swim and water polo coach, Peter Nield. “Long periods of play, acquiring ball skills and giving the boys a hard time. Always with a smile, she is great to work with, but there is the feisty player side—when she is in a tough match, I can see her cheeks and her eyes began to glow.”
PLACE TO PLACE—One evening when Megan was 17, her father granted the news that the family would be moving to the sun-filled, beach town of Sydney, Australia. Although apprehensive to leave, but curious for a change of scene, Megan packed up her belongings, said farewell to her childhood friends and three weeks later, embarked on her next adventure.
Considering that Sydney had a much different approach to academics than London, Megan had to repeat another year of high school, still, she embraced this with a positive demeanor. “I knew my hometown was not the right environment for me and I considered the move a second chance. I needed to take school more seriously. I needed that extra push,” she said. “Sydney was the place that opened new doors for me. ” Once she moved to Sydney, and witnessed how highly regarded the sport of waterpolo was, she invested more hours to training and realized this could be a serious path for her.
“Water polo in the U.K. is very underrepresented,” she clarifies. “The teams have no money and no funding and if I played for a university back home, it would have been more for fun and a way to be social, rather than for competition.” Considering this, Megan knew she had to take her talent to the States to fulfill her personal expectations as a professional water polo player. “I knew that I needed to go to America to play seriously. The older I grew, this became a big thing.” Megan chose to spend her first year of college at the Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute in Florence, Italy, rather than the traditional Marist Campus, with the Freshman Florence Experience (FFE) Program. Since she was raised to speak both English, from her father, and French, from her mother, Megan naturally became accustomed to the Italian language and culture.
“It was my first international tournament and we came out with a gold medal. It was absolutely incredible."--Megan Clarke
Megan Clarke was raised outside of Birmingham, London and speaks both French from her mother, and English from her father. She began competitively swimming at the age of 7 and has dreamed of entering the Olympics ever since. After sufferring a knee injury, she began training for water polo instead—and has chosen to pursue a career in the sport ever since. Last summer, she was invited to the World University Game trials and was selected to be on the Great Britain Women’s Water Polo team. Megan and her new team won the E.U. Nations Tournament in Czech Republic. Megan plans to attend graduate school for psychology and focus on research to help establish alternative therapies to prescription drug-use to help the lives of children.
Despite her many travels abroad, Megan played on the club Water Polo Team in Florence and continued her dream by maintaining a strict and daily training schedule. When Megan returned from Italy she was invited to the World University Game trials and was selected to be on the Great Britain Women’s Water Polo team. Megan and her new team began practicing right away in Manchester, England, and in July, they won the E.U. Nations Tournament in Czech Republic.
“It was my first international tournament and we come out with a gold medal. It was absolutely incredible.”Soon after the victory, Megan and her team flew out to Taiwan for the World University Games, a tournament with comparable intensity to that of the Olympics. She informs me, “The period before I came to Marist, I had a total of just under 3 weeks off. Yes, it was exhausting and yes, it was a nonstop summer. But look at what I have done and what I have achieved.”
Pausing to hand me a hot cup of freshly brewed Orange Oolong tea at her Foy Housing kitchen table she said, “I can’t imagine doing anything else. I don’t want to imagine my life any way without water polo.”
‘THE LISTENER’—Besides her devotion to athletics, Megan is also driven when it comes to her professional goals. Megan knew she wanted to study psychology since the age of 15 and plans to work with children. She believes, “If we’re going to help anyone, we should start with children.” Megan aims to focus on research to help establish alternative therapies to prescription drug-use.
“I’ve always been the listener. That's how my friends describe me. Friends always come to me to talk. Honestly, it is in my nature to be a psychologist.” Megan acknowledges how her personal directness and confidence stems from having a close relationship with her family members. She shares how her father, Phil Clarke, always wanted both her, and her younger brother to participate in team sports; with the hopes of not only creating a healthy lifestyle, but also to establish a sense of community throughout their lives.
Phil Clarke said, “What Megan has achieved is from hard work, determination and tenacity. As well as her sporting achievements, her academic results and the amazing love and support she gives to all of her family and friends shows just how special a person Megan is.” Even during the brief, yet utterly critical time, when Megan’s younger brother faced a battle with Leukemia, her family remained optimistic and joyful. “We were really close. That brought us so much closer. That brought me to a new comfort level. Even my brother during his illness, he would continue ‘to take the mickey out of himself,’ meaning laugh at himself and his new appearance caused by the effect of the steroids.”
“I learned you have to stay lighthearted. Decide what to take seriously. My academics, family, sport. Take everything with pinch of salt and be happy in what you're doing.” Although Megan is thousands of miles away from the people she once grew up with, her high regard to friendship remains to be a large aspect of her life. “I have intensely good friendships. I take pride in my friends. I am proud of them even if there's nothing in that moment to be proud of, and I tell them that.”
Even with much sacrifice to the sport of water polo and the demanding schedule of playing on both a college and a semi-professional team, Megan still finds time for tranquility. With her authentic personality and cool attitude, Megan chooses to spend her free time outdoors or listening to music, preferably her favorite band, The Doors. Megan is confident that she will one day reside to a location near the ocean to embrace her deep connection with water—at the moment, in either California, Hawaii or Sydney.
She smiles and concludes, “Right now I know I will do postgraduate school and continue studying. One day I want to be Dr. Clarke.”