Macomb native Christina Klinepeter spars for her chance to represent U.S. at 2020 Olympics
MACOMB — Macomb has been home to actors, representatives, and even major-league athletes. Now, 39-year-old Christina Klinepeter is hoping to add “Olympic athlete” to that list.
Klinepeter is currently training for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics in karate. Karate is making its debut at the 2020 Olympics and will feature men and women competing in kata (forms) and kumite (sparring) events.
The addition of karate was announced at the Rio Olympics. During this time, Klinepeter was on a family vacation in Canada. Having grown up in a karate-loving family, she said that it was fun for her family to hear the news together.
Recently, Klinepeter came in fifth place at the U.S. Olympics karate nationals in Chicago. She will be competing in the U.S. team trials again in January. The person who places first in her division will have the chance to go to the Olympic qualifiers in Paris next year.
She has had to overcome her own fair share of struggles to get to where she is today, including having to compete in the nationals while sick. Before that, she had to have her ACL replaced, which typically has a nine to 12-month recovery period; she qualified for nationals two weeks later. Before that, Klinepeter took a 13-year break to focus on raising her sons.
Klinepeter grew up in Macomb with her three sisters and began practicing karate when she was four years old. Having watched the Olympics growing up, she said she wanted to be in the Olympics starting at age 12 and never gave up on the dream.
“I remember four years before Rio watching the Olympics, and thinking, 'Okay, is there another sport I can pick up quickly and master the next four years?' “ said Klinepeter, laughing. “But you know, my kids are so much younger and it just felt daunting to try to pick up another sport. When it was announced that karate was in my first thought was, 'Man, it's too bad I'm too old, right?' I was in my late 30s. Then, I started questioning my own thinking and thought, "You know what? I'm in great shape. I'm healthy. I'm mature, eat great. So why don't I just give it a shot?' I'd rather try than always wonder, right?"
Klinepeter now lives in Chicago with her husband and two sons, 12 and 13. She is the CEO of the company Eat Purely but still finds the time to visit Macomb twice a month to visit her parents and train with her father. Klinepeter said that both her husband and her children have been very supportive on this journey.
Klinepeter’s father, Ed Kuras, is also her coach and shihan. Kuras, chief instructor at Western Illinois Shotokan Karate (WISK) and Jiu Jitsu Club, has been practicing karate and jujitsu for 50 years and trains two to three times a week. He was also the U.S. jujitsu team head coach in 2010.
"Ever since the girls were young, I’ve said, 'Okay, I've got three hats. I'm your dad, I'm your coach, and I'm your shihan,' “ said Kuras. “The dad, of course, maybe has different goals and different advice than a coach would. And the shihan is like a compass in more areas than just sport.”
Klinepeter said that she has to commit to a disciplined training schedule. Working during the day, she trains six days a week in the evening and occasionally before work. One of the daily workouts is sport-specific, and she cross trains with a strength and agility coach a couple of times a week as well.
Klinepeter has the following advice for aspiring athletes:
"It sounds like the simplest thing, but just try. Figure out what you love and just go for it and try and take the next step. You don't have to have all of it solved. But as long as you're trying, and particularly trying to be your best,” said Klinepeter. ”That's all I'm really doing in coming back; I want to see what my best is. And I'm hoping that my best means a gold at the Olympics. And I'll never know unless I try."
You can follow Klinepeter’s story on Instagram at @cklinepeter.
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