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Spring Has Come And Gone (5/21/13)

 
Maine state Senate presented me with a "OLYMPN" license plate
Last year's summer camp
One of my many high school visits
My nephew Lucas and I at a playground

BY JULIA CLUKEY

I returned home to Maine at the end of March looking forward to some down time and unpacking my bags for good. At the end of every season I always take a deep look to my year on the sled and decide where I am going to take my training in the off-season. As an elite athlete for more than a decade now, the one thing I have learned is that your strengths and weaknesses are always changing. As you train to improve one area of your sport, it simultaneously changes other areas, whether you intended to or not. I look forward to this time of the year where I can reflect what went right, what went wrong, and where my focus needs to be. This year I find my list of things to change smaller than in the past, coming off my best season ever – U.S. start champion, U.S. national champion, two silver medals in World Cups, a team high sixth place in the overall rankings. I recognize that the work I did last summer regaining my health and strength, and the emphasis in my training I put on the “sliding” part of my sport served me well this year. I intended to change very little, with the exception of my start. In reviewing films from this year’s races I see that although I have a consistent top-three start there is still time there, and I would like to be the fastest starter in the field next year.

The “off-season” for me doesn’t just mean pushing myself to excellence in my training; I have a great deal of pride in my partnership with the Maine Beer and Wine Distributors Association as their spokesperson for their responsibility campaign. For the past three years I have traveled the state of Maine, visiting over 30 high schools speaking to students about the importance of setting goals, understanding and overcoming adversity, and making good decisions for yourself. Last year we took our message to a younger demographic and I started Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls. The camp is designed for girls ages 8-12 as a place to develop self-confidence and a healthy lifestyle. Last year we had 95 campers and I hope to have up to 120 campers this year. The camp will run for two weeks starting June 17. For more information visit my website: www.clukeyluge.com.

The best part of coming home to Maine in the off-season is the time I get to spend with my friends and family, particularly my nephew, Lucas. Soon after the 2010 Olympics my younger sister passed away, so it has been very important to my family to have an active role in her son’s upbringing. We split time caring for him with his father’s family. I am grateful for the relationship we have with them and I get to have such a great connection with Lucas. He was there when I won my first World Cup medal in Lake Placid, N.Y., and I realized there how important my life here at home is to my success in my sport. The clock is certainly ticking down to the Sochi Winter Games, and I intend to do everything in my power to ensure I am ready for the opportunities that await me in the next nine months.

For more frequent updates, please follow me on Twitter: @juliaclukey