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Why You Might Recognize the Extraordinary Zion Clark on America's Got Talent

Awed by Zion Clark’s Audition, one AGT Judge vowed to give the inspirational elite athlete “4 billion yeses.”

By Joe Dziemianowicz

Record-setting athlete Zion Clark has said that his life’s work “is to inspire and lift people up.” He got the job done during his America’s Got Talent audition on August 1.

How to Watch

Watch the Season 19 premiere of America’s Got Talent Tuesday, May 28 at 8/7c on NBC and next day on Peacock

Clark’s singular display of physical and mental power moved the audience to tears and the Judges to superlatives — and four emphatic yes votes.

Who is Zion Clark?

Zion Clark, 25, is an elite all-American wrestler, MMA fighter, author, motivational speaker, Guinness World Record holder as the fastest man on two hands, and the subject of an award-winning documentary.

Born in 1997 in Columbus, Ohio with a rare birth defect called caudal regression syndrome, Clark has no legs. Given up for adoption as an infant, he describes his childhood in his bio as “a recipe for disaster.”

Zion Clark performing on the America's Got Talent stage.

Clark was in and out of a number of abusive foster homes and labeled a “problem child.” Fortunately, he was finally adopted by his foster mother, Kimberly Hawkins, when he was in high school. 

RELATED: This Is Why Simon Cowell May Be Quieter Than Usual During AGT 18 Auditions

But it was in high school where competitive wrestling, a sport he excelled in, became truly transformative for him.

Clark went on to compete in wrestling and wheelchair racing events at Kent State University. He made his professional mixed martial arts debut in December 2022 and won at the Gladiator Challenge: Seasons Beatings.

A social media phenom with 1 million Instagram followers, Clark's goal is to become the first American to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics in wrestling and the Paralympics wheelchair racing.

Zion lives by the motto “No excuses,” which is tattooed on his back. He released Work with What You Got: a Memoir in April 2023.  

What is caudal regression syndrome?

Caudal regression syndrome is a broad term for a rare complex disorder characterized by abnormal development of the lower end of the spine, according to the National Organization for Rare Diseases.

This condition can affect the lower back and legs. A wide range of abnormalities may potentially occur in infants with caudal regression syndrome including abnormal development of the lower back and base of the spinal column. More severe malformations may occur in some people.

Zion Clark smiling on the America's Got Talent stage.

What to know about Zion Clark’s award-winning documentary

The 2018 Netflix short documentary Zion won a Sports Emmy in 2018. It chronicles Clark’s wrestling career led by Coach Gil Donahue at Massillon Washington High School in Ohio.

In his senior year, Clark finished the season 33-15 and was one match away from qualifying for Ohio High School State Wrestling Championships.

“He thought he failed. He was one of the biggest successes ever,” Donahue said in the film.

The doc also covers Clark’s growing self-acceptance. He rejected wearing prosthetic legs, which were painful physically and emotionally.

“I felt like people were trying to make me look like everybody else when I want to look like myself,” Clark explained in the 11-minute film.

How AGT Judges Reacted to Zion Clark

Heidi Klum: “You are absolutely incredible. I'm so happy that you came to audition. I'm so happy that we met, and I have to say that you’re very, very handsome.”

Sofia Vergara:You know what I love? It's your smile. I mean from the moment you arrived you look like you're so happy. I can't imagine what it's happened to you and still here you come with a smile. Thank you for coming to AGT.

Howie Mandel: “We use the word amazing a lot, but I think it really applies to who you are. And I want everybody to know you. You are very, very, very important.”

Simon Cowell: I am so happy you came on the show. You have no idea. You have such incredible personality. You define the word inspiration. I listened to everything you said ... amazing."

Then they delivered their verdicts.

“I want to give you a first yes,” said Howie.

“I want to give you a second yes,” said Heidi.

“Three yeses,” said Sofia.

Simon, still visibly moved, said, “I’m going to give you four yeses, but really four billion yeses.”

Watch America's Got Talentairing Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC, and streaming the following day on Peacock.