Whether he’s driving a car or rocking the ice on short track blades, Clayton DeClemente is always looking for one slight adjustment to give him just a little more velocity.
Clayton is one of the newest members of the Short Track National Team, training full-time at the Utah Olympic Oval. Although the 20-year-old lived in Utah for the last year, training with the FAST Development Team, this was the first time he earned a spot training with National Head Coach Wilma Boomstra and the short track team that could very well take him to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.
“We are excited to have Clayton on the team,” Boomstra said. “Clayton has a beautiful, natural feel for the ice and the technique comes easy to him. He is pretty solid in the longer laps. This year we will work a lot on his speed, strength and race strategies. I am looking forward to the progress he will make.”
Last season, Clayton had a taste of world cup competition, racing in the ISU Short Track World Cup 1 in Salt Lake City. He was also a last-minute addition to World Cups 5 and 6.
“I was told at the very last second I was going,” he said. “I had less than a day to pack and leave. I got on the plane and within two days I was racing. I learned how the pacing of a world cup is different than here. You might race and have a two-hour break before the next race. I think I did pretty okay. I did a lot of 500s which are not my best distant.”
Poughkeepsie, New York, with its green, wooded areas is where Clayton calls home. He trained with the Danbury Speedskating Club and coach Elena Sklutovsky for nine years. As a beginner, coaches inspired him to stick with it, that if he’d push himself, he’d go far.
His favorite distance, the 1500m, gives him the challenge of long-distance laps where pacing, strategy and speed all come together for an exciting race. In 2019, he competed in the Empire State Games, winning all three distances in the men’s championships events.
“From 2010, when Clayton first came to try speed skating on hockey skates, I told his mother Kristen, ‘Let’s get him speed skates’,” said Sklutovsky. “He was always very focused, hardworking, trying to get better and get all the work done. Clayton doesn’t shy away from challenges. He’s a very focused competitor and will fight hard all the way to the finish line.”
Clayton is always fine-tuning his performance and working on techniques to bring up his speed. His goal is to improve his racing strategy and knowledge of tracks. “Someone who knows more than me can beat me easily,” he said.
If you want to get Clayton enthused, ask him about cars. He loves tinkering with them, driving them, fixing them and even talking about them. After his skating career, he’d like to pursue a job in the field of marketing analytics. He loves looking at graphs, analyzing data and other things that he knows can be boring to other people. He also plays the piano and bass guitar.
Clayton is excited for the chance to learn speedskating from the best athletes and coaches in the world and hopes this season allows him the opportunity to compete internationally. Either way, he’ll use his time in Utah to fine-tune his performance.
“It’s great having a lot of people that are similarly skilled to push each other to finish a hard set or go a little faster toward the end,” he said. “It’s hard to get better when there’s nobody else around you that can push you. I’m having fun doing it so if I could also be good at it, that would be really great.”