May 26, 2013

Coming home: Maine Olympians give back in the off-season

Seth Wescott and Julia Clukey are actively involved in efforts to guide the state's youth.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Seth Wescott and Julia Clukey are among the world's best athletes in their sports.

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Seth Wescott returns to Carrabassett Valley each off-season.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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Julia Clukey returns to her home in Augusta in the off-season. “Maine made me the kind of person I am as an athlete,” said Clukey.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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Wescott is the face of snowboardcross, the two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist. Clukey, a 2010 U.S. Olympian, finished last winter ranked sixth in the world in luge.

They are regarded as Maine's best hopes to compete in the next Winter Olympics, to be held next February in Sochi, Russia.

They could live and train anywhere, but both return to Maine each off-season -- Clukey to her home in Augusta, Wescott to Carrabassett Valley -- both for its quiet comfort and the chance to give back to the communities and state that supported them over the years.

Both are heavily involved with the state's youth. Clukey speaks to high school and middle school students across the state on what is called the "Responsibility Tour" and sponsors a summer day camp in Readfield for young girls. Wescott is actively engaged in WinterKids, a nonprofit organization that promotes winter sports for children, and also participates in the Level Field Fund, which provides funding to athletes in financial need.

And just this year, Wescott entered into an agreement with the Maine Lobstermen's Community Alliance in which he will contribute 5 percent of the sales of his signature Bern helmet to the association.

"I think we're really lucky to have both of them," said Ethan Austin, the communications manager at Sugarloaf, where Wescott co-owns a restaurant at the base of the mountain. "I know Seth well. I've met Julia. They're very similar. They love the state and want to do good things with the fame and success they've had on the world stage."

There is almost a need for both of them to give back.

"Maine made me the kind of person I am as an athlete, from the opportunities and experiences I had as a kid," said Clukey, 28. "So I want to give back to the state the way I feel I've been given and I'd much rather pour my passion here than somewhere else."

STAYING GROUNDED

Both could be elsewhere in the summer months -- Clukey at Lake Placid, N.Y., training with the U.S. team; Wescott in Park City, Utah, with the U.S. Ski Team. But both return to their home state to remain grounded.

Peter Carlisle, the marketing director of Octagon, a sports management business based in Saco, has represented Wescott for 15 years and said Wescott has never wavered in his desire to be in Maine and help Mainers.

"He and I have had many conversations about Maine and the importance of staying around," said Carlisle. "It's been satisfying to see how, time and time again, he has stayed here. He's had countless opportunities to move. You see other athletes moving to (Los Angeles), see them buying different properties, see them moving to easier places to train. But Seth has never wavered as to where he calls home. Maine is where he lives. He loves it and that's where he's at."

Wescott, 36, is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. In April while in Alaska, he fell into a crevice while working with noted cinematographer Warren Miller. But even after traveling the world, he has a very simple reason why he returns at the end of each competitive season to his home base in Carrabassett Valley:

"Maine has everything that I love and love to do. There's a sense of home when you grow up here, between the mountains, between the coast with the surfing, all the different places to play golf in the state. I love Maine as a place to recreate.

(Continued on page 2)

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