Six hard years of training, commitment and preparation has led Airdrie’s Colton Clarke to his biggest achievement of his young career, being named to Canada’s Next Gen Team October 27.
For the 16-year-old, making it to Canada’s junior luge team was a major goal and when he finally earned his place, a day before his 16th birthday, a sense of relief and pride came over the young Airdronian.
“That was a great birthday present and confirmation (of my skills),” Clarke said. “I was super excited and just really happy to have found that out.
“It is a huge relief knowing I did everything I could and I’m now on the junior national team.”
As a member of the national junior team, Clarke will take part in the Junior World Cup series, which is being held exclusively in Europe this season. Clarke, alongside his seven fellow junior team members, will head to Germany at the end of November to train and compete against some of the best luge athletes within their age-range.
Athletes between the ages of 15 and 20 years old are eligible to make the national junior team, so making the team in his second year of eligibility was a major accomplishment, according to Clarke.
“My goal is to podium at every race. It’s going to be hard, but that’s my goal,” Clarke said.
Clarke said he used the disappointment from failing to make the team last season as motivation to make sure he didn’t suffer the same setback this time around.
The young athlete added he might have called it quits on his luging career if he failed to make the junior team for a second straight year.
“(Not making it last year) was really heartbreaking, it was something I was working hard for,” he said.
“It would be so tough mentally to do the same thing I did last year. It was really a make it or break it (moment).”
Although this isn’t his first time competing in Europe, Clarke said he is just as excited to travel overseas as he was the first time.
Due to still being in high school, there comes a need to balance being an athlete and a student. With luge being a sport that requires a lot of travel, especially extended stays in Europe, Clarke said his teachers have been accommodating to him, which allows him to continue chasing his Olympic dream.
“This definitely gets me close. I can definitely see myself making it,” Clarke said. “When I first started, I just wanted to have something to do and I found luge. I thought it would just be a pastime to have fun with.
“I definitely didn’t think I would be on the junior national team six years later.”
Although the Olympics is a lifelong goal, Clarke said he isn’t looking too far past the now, remaining focused on every event he has coming up.
“I’m just focused on doing my best every year and seeing how well I can do versus the best in the world,” Clarke said.