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When the U.S. Olympic Bobsled team steps up to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, not only will Adam Clark be representing the red, white and blue, he will be representing Owen County.
Clark, who graduated from Owen County High School in 2003, was recently named to the bobsled team. The Centre College graduate will serve as a “pusher” and helping getting the bobsled off to a fast and accurate start will be one of this jobs.
The recognition comes after four long years of hard work and dedication.
When word came down that he had made the team, Clark said his biggest emotion was one of relief.
“I was very relieved once the team was officially named,” Clark said. “The team selection process during an Olympic season is always the most competitive and this year was no different.”
Clark said the competition, as always, was tough and intense with many strong athletes trying to make the team.
“I had faith that I was good enough to make this year’s team but with the number of great athletes who tried out this season I was never sure,” Clark said. “I am glad that my coaches believed in me enough to name me to the national team. It is a great honor to represent the USA in international competition.”
To make a good bobsled athlete, Clark said there are certain prerequisites. You have to have good strength; good speed, and weigh 200 pounds or more.
“Beyond that it takes great coordination to push and load from the side of the sled. It takes great spatial sense to understand the flow of the track without being able to see it,” Clark said.
In addition to the physical attributes, Clark said a tireless work ethic to perform all the sled work and training that goes on outside of the time at the track is required.
“Over an Olympic quadrennial, the coaches try to identify the athletes who have these qualities and then see which of them can produce race results,” Clark said. “I have been fortunate in my career and have shown that I am capable of producing results and winning medals for the USA in international competition and to some degree that separates me from some of the other athletes who tried out for the team this year.”
Clark said he had several great role models throughout life but like most great athletes, credits his mom, Jane Barber, and dad, Mike Clark, for pushing him toward greatness.
“My mom and dad of course played the biggest part in making me the man I am today. They not only encouraged me to chase my dreams but also taught me what it means to work hard in the pursuit of that,” Clark said. “My high-school football coach, Greg Ulasiewicz, really opened my eyes to the possibility of competing at a higher level. Without him, I don’t know if I would’ve played football in college. He showed me that it was possible. And finally my college football coach, Andy Frye, whose team motto continues to be ‘pursue excellence with a vengeance.’ Coach Frye wanted to be perfect in every aspect of the game and I adopted that mindset as it pertains to being an athlete. I learned how to be excellent in all phases of being an athlete and that has taken me to the international level of competition.”
When he lands in Russia, Clark will be carrying a few mementoes with him to inspire and relax him.
“I always travel with a couple of pictures of my family; my wife, my parents and brother, and my dogs,” Clark said. “It’s not much but it helps me relax during competition and training.”
As he strives for Olympic gold, Clark has become something of a folk hero to some of the students in Owen County. Clark adopted Carol Wooten’s fifth-grade class at Maurice Bowling Middle School last year for the students’ support of his career. He even stopped by their classroom to show his appreciation first hand.
The students, in turn, became avid bobsledding fans.
Clark tells students that he comes from the same background and they can also achieve tier dreams.
“(I tell them) I grew up just like you. I worked on the farm. I rode the bus to school. I went to the old elementary school and the old high school. I played football against Carroll County and Trimble County,” Clark said. “Just because you come from a small place doesn’t mean you can’t do big things. Whether you want to be an athlete or a doctor, go after that; but be prepared to work. To be the best, you have to be passionate about whatever you’re doing. You have to master all parts of your trade not just a few. Have faith that you can achieve your goal and be patient enough to wait for it.”
Although he is confident about the team’s chances in Russia, Clark is leery of making predictions in a sport where the tiniest mistake can cost a team Olympic gold.
“The USA has the athletes and the equipment to win multiple medals in the 2014 Olympic Games but the competition is stiff,” Clark said. “Our sport is contested to the hundredth of a second over two miles of racing on ice. Anything can happen. All we can do is keep working as hard as possible to be ready and have faith that when the time comes we will be.”