Clement, a double world champion from 2007 and 2009, returned to full fitness for 2016 to claim his first individual Olympic gold medal, but had been less fortunate in his ongoing struggles against injury since winning his second world title in Berlin.
He reflects: “2012 was a very difficult year for me because I had two medical procedures in February and had limited races before the US trials. I made the team but I was not at 100% in London.
“I was fortunate enough to make the final after having major surgery several months before. Finishing in eighth place in the Olympics in 2012 was for me like winning one million dollars because no one would have thought I’d have come back from having surgery to even make the final at the Olympics. I was just blessed to be in that moment and to compete.”
A point was reached in those seven barren years between his final world and first Olympic successes where Clement admits he questioned his future in the sport.
He opted to take a brief sabbatical in 2014 after yet another appearance in a major final in 2013 where he trailed in last place.
“From ‘09 to ‘16 it was very, very tough having injury after injury and not knowing your future. There’s a point where you think should you stop running because I’m not getting to race and I’m so tired,” Clement says.
“After the Moscow World Championships (in 2013), I felt like I was burned out. I felt like I was mentally completed and needed that break.”
That year off proved to the perfect tonic for the American to recapture what had been missing over the previous years. On his return to the track in 2015, after a fourth-placed finish in the final in Beijing – his eighth straight major championship appearance – Clement started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I didn’t know my future but I told myself I love to win, I love to compete and I have to keep trying. God is not going to give up on me,” he says.
“I kept fighting each and every single year and kept believing each year for me would get better.
“When I finished fourth and saw I was getting closer to the podium. I felt a little better and was getting closer to my breakthrough. And my breakthrough came in 2016.”
That breakthrough came in the shape of a tight and tense final in Rio where Clement held off challenges from Kenya’s Boniface Tumuti and Yasmani Copello from Turkey to end his run of medalless finishes at major championships.
Olympic gold, eight years after winning silver in his debut Games, has rekindled Clement’s desire to maintain his place at the top of the sport.
With one lifelong goal achieved, the 31-year-old has now turned his attention to the IAAF World Championship London 2017 where victory once more will see him separate himself from some of the greats when it comes to accumulating world medals.
“It’s a great feeling to be Olympic champion. It’s what I’ve been going for my entire career,” Clement says.
“I definitely want to win the World Championships this summer in London. That is my other ultimate goal. I want to separate myself from other hurdlers up there.
“Felix Sanchez and Edwin Moses have two World Championship titles. I’ll be going for my third. When I get that, I’d be the only in history to have three.”
For tickets to the IAAF World Championships London 2017 visit https://tickets.london2017athletics.com.