TWO years ago Jack Clarkson was an obese teenager.
Today, at 18, he is a champion Yorkshire cyclist.
Jack, of Dean Street, Greetland, shed more than five stone after discovering a love for mountain bikes. Friends and family watched amazed as what started as a bid to slim led to him being crowned 19th in the world at junior cyclo-cross.
At his heaviest, Jack tipped the scales at nearly 15 stone aged 13 and was regularly bullied at school, Brooksbank in Elland. Jack said: “I used to do nothing but sit on my bottom, play on my playstation and comfort eat.
“The bullying is what made we want to do something. It was quite bad. There were days when I didn’t go to school because I hated it.”
Jack signed up to Halifax Air Cadets which was where he was first introduced to mountain biking.
He said: “We went away for a weekend doing outdoor activities. I loved it. I came home and bought myself a bike.
“It was quite a lot of hard work for the first few months. But I absolutely loved it.”
A week’s work experience at Halifax cycle shop Pedalsport when he was 15 turned into a Saturday job for Jack, who started going out with Pedalsport’s mountain bike group on Thursday evenings.
“Once I got involved in that group I started to get much fitter and I started doing races.
“My first ever bike race I broke my wrist when I fell off.
“I wasn’t amazing. I had probably lost a bit of weight but was still about 11 stone at that point.”
But Jack’s talent quickly improved to see him crowned winner of the Yorkshire cyclocross series in 2010 and 2011 and second in the national series the same years.
He caught the eye of the British Cycling team who regularly take him to race for Britain in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
In 2010/11 Jack finished 19th overall in the junior cyclocross world championships - the best result for a Halifax rider in 30 years.
After stepping up an age group in 2011/12 into the under-23 category, Jack finished 40th in the world.
Jack, who now works full-time at Pedalsport, said: “It was a hobby but it’s turned into my life.
“My family say they can’t believe it - how far I’ve got. When I first got a phone call from British Cycling saying ‘Jack, you’re coming to Belgium tomorrow’. I told mum but she didn’t believe it - literally until I was going out the door.
“Everything just happened so fast. It was unreal. I think I went from being mega fat to fit in two to three years.
“Life is so different now. When you are that size you get bored. You don’t want to go out of the house or do anything. But now I’ve got more confidence.
“I’m tons happier. A lot of my friends can’t believe it.
“People don’t recognise me from school. They’re gobsmacked when I say who I am.”
Jack, who now weighs nine and a half stone, has recently signed to race for Hope Racing in Lancashire and plans to continue improve his fitness and rankings.
He said: “I’m happy with being good at a British level. But if I wanted to go pro it would mean doing well in the world cup so I’m going to see how I progress. I might end up moving towards mountainbiking. But cyclocross is where my heart’s at. World champion in that would be good - hopefully.”