Curt Clausen has been race walking since he was 12 years old. Participating in the Stevens Point, WI, summer track and field program, Clausen was first introduced to the race walk in the summer of 1980.
Growing up, Clausen found the proximity of the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point provided many fine race walking role models. He originally competed in distance running, but a demonstration by NAIA Nationals champ Jeff Ellis of Steven Point sparked his interest in walking. The following summer session, Clausen began race walk training with Coach Dave Bachman. Balancing running and race walking each summer, he experienced little success.
his pattern continued until Clausen, 17, headed for the 1985 Junior Nationals. His race plan was to stick with Tony Englehart, the 1984 champ. Unfortunately, Englehart wasn’t ready to duplicate his previous feat and Clausen found himself too far behind to challenge for the lead.
A few months later, Clausen put it all together. Instead of running cross-country and track as he had in previous years, he decided to concentrate solely on race walking for his senior year. His focus paid off as he led the Junior squad at the North America’s Cup to an overall U.S. Team Championship.
His goal was to win the Junior Nationals and qualify for the World Junior Championships in Greece, which is exactly what he did! After high school, he enrolled at Duke University, where he continued walking, training hard only three to four months a year. Although few people remember it, Clausen won the Intermediate Age Group Championships as a freshman. The ill-fated race was sparsely attended. I should know, I was the only other race walker.
In 1988 Clausen entered his first Olympic Trials and finished the 50K in 15th place. Shortly afterwards he won his first National title at the 40K National Championships. But this successful experience was not enough to motivate Clausen to stop dabbling and focus on race walking. For the next few years he raced the indoor circuit, became fit by June, raced at Nationals and participated in the U.S. Olympic Festival.
Unlike many New Year’s resolutions that go by the wayside, Clausen’s 1995 commitment to dedicate himself to race walking proved true. At first he found it tough, but by June he finished 5th at Nationals. For more than a year preceding the 1996 Olympic Trials, Clausen trained continuously for the first time in his life, replacing running workouts with a lot more race walking.