Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wu's Clemens Finds Asthma Is Tough Foe

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wu's Clemens Finds Asthma Is Tough Foe

Article excerpt

The main inspiration for countless athletic girls here is back at work.

And she isn't sporting sequins and tights. Unless Teri Clemens has had an attack of glitz as sudden as the asthma attack that nearly killed her.

Oksana Baiul - the Olympic figure skating champion who competed here Monday less than a month after knee surgery - is only the second-most-emotional story in town this week.

Clemens, 38, coaches the relentlessly superb Washington University women's volleyball team.

The Bears are ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division III. They are favored to win their fourth title in a row and fifth in six years.

Her summer camps fill up early with 800 girls. They and the youngsters at Bears matches go gaga at the way Clemens and her players mingle with them.

At the same time, Clemens is almost terminally competitive.

She has been told not to jog for exercise, in deference to the asthma. So she race-walks at high speed, not much of a deference for someone left behind three times on the road last year because of breathing crises.

A month ago, after peeling off five miles outdoors during allergy season, Clemens was blindsided by an asthma blitz. She spent four days in intensive care and remembers none of them.

For 2 1/2 weeks, she wore a hospital dressing gown, an IV tube in her chest and an oxygen tube in her nose.

Clemens missed the team's trek to Hawaii, where its winning streak ended at 31 matches with two losses to potent scholarship schools. She vowed to be back Friday for the loaded WU National Invitational. And she was, with a cane for legs wobbly from medication and bedrest.

The Bears (30-2) swept their four matches without losing a game. Clemens gave way in the final to assistant Joe Worlund.

The Bears take a 64-match home winning streak - a record for all divisions, men or women - into their league tourney here this weekend. But Clemens' program is as entertaining as it is successful.

Her motto: "We're Division III, but we're first class. It's the same gold in the championship ring whether it's Division I, II or III."

Her vision: "We play games to find out what we have to practice."

Her practices: "If it ain't fun, we don't do it. …

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