NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

January 31, 2014

Off to Sochi

Port man makes improbable return to Olympics

(Continued)

Olympic, World Cup Memories

Clement has seen some special things: When the U.S. was knocked out of the 1998 World Cup, he hung around for the remainder and was in a packed Parisian pub with his brother when France defeated Brazil in the final. Still somewhat new to the U.S., he also reveled in the U.S. women’s soccer team’s gold medal victory in 1996 in Atlanta.

On the flip side, Clement witnessed the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger who caromed into a foundation pole at 95 mph on a training run in Vancouver, the day of the Opening Ceremony.

“He was ejected on the final turn,” he recalled. “It was silent. I remember the people trying to revive him, but he was gone. I was watching all this.”

This year’s luge track will be slower.

“They have done a lot to reduce the speed in Sochi,” he noted.

Clement also recalls choppers and sharpshooters everywhere at the cross-country venue outside of Salt Lake City.

“(Former) President Bush was there,” he said.

Clement has seen the security measures at previous Olympic Games, and he isn’t too concerned. He’ll be 40 miles northwest of Sochi — and 40 degrees cooler — in the village of Krasinaya Polyana.

“There will be 100,000 police officers,” he said. “I don’t expect anything will happen.”

About that medal ...

Clement’s return to the winter games is a personal victory. Maybe a miracle. While in Vancouver, he struggled with chronic back pain, so much so that he was receiving physical therapy and massages from the trainers, without much relief.

Upon his return to Newburyport, the pain grew worse. The prescribed pain medication wasn’t touching it, neither were the two weeks of physical therapy. He would lose his balance for no reason.

After an MRI, nothing could prepare him and Patricia for the diagnosis: ependymoma, a good-sized tumor growing inside his spinal cord. The news came on March 17, his 50th birthday, no less.

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