Luge star announces retirement
Olympian Julia Clukey officially announced her retirement from the sport of luge at a press conference earlier this week at the Kennebec Valley YMCA in her hometown of Augusta, Maine. She made the announcement based on recent concerns about her future health related to onset of pain she has experienced from Arnold-Chiari malformation, a congenital brain condition that she has endured throughout her career.
Clukey, 31, first tried the sport of luge at age 12 during a recruiting event in downtown Portland, Maine, and has competed in the sport for 19 years. Her career has been highlighted by finishing 17th at the 2010 Olympics, winning the Norton U.S. National Championship in 2012 and two silver medals in World Cup competition. Clukey also nearly qualified for the 2014 Olympics, missing the team by .013 seconds.
“I’ve always known that I wouldn’t be able to luge forever,” Clukey said. “I had planned to retire after 2018, but as I have told students in my presentations, in life you are going to face adversity and it is up to you how you respond to those situations. At this point, the level of pain during and after my workouts really limits my training and could impact my future health. With the support of my family, friends, doctors and USA Luge, I recognize that my health is the number one priority and strongly believe this is the best decision for me. I am going to approach this decision as a new opportunity.”
Clukey had brain surgery in 2011 to attempt to limit the pain in her neck and skull. She spoke at the press conference about how the condition has resurfaced and severely impacted her ability to train at the level necessary for her to compete at the Olympic level.
“Julia started having recurring symptoms related to her Arnold-Chiari at the end of this past winter season,” said Dr. Eugene Byrne, team doctor for USA Luge. “Throughout the off-season, we have continued to monitor and track the symptoms and pain level. It was obvious the pain has escalated beyond a healthy tolerance. As part of this decision, we factored in the dedication and intensity of the way Julia trains and competes. Julia always wants to give 110 percent. However, she understands that the pain isn’t going to go away and, that at this point, aggravating it more could cause future health concerns. With assistance from a neurosurgeon we made the decision that retirement is best; in making this decision, she is making a very responsible decision for her future.”
USA Luge CEO Jim Leahy added, “It is always difficult for an athlete to walk away from a sport that has been their life-blood, but to end it for medical reasons is a tough pill to swallow. Julia’s many accomplishments as an Olympian and world-class athlete have well represented USA Luge both at home and abroad. Her courage and competitiveness will be the standard by which we will measure all future athletes. We wish her nothing but the best as she begins the next chapter of her post-athletic career.”
As part of the press conference, Clukey announced that her future plans include committing more time to her outreach to young students through her “Julia Inspires” campaign as spokesperson for the Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association. She has already started booking presentations through her website for the upcoming school year. In 2015, Clukey earned her degree in electrical engineering from DeVry University and is currently working at WEX in Portland as a recruiter.
In addition to working, Clukey says she plans to continue to devote time to reaching Maine’s youth. Through her partnership with the Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association (MBWDA), she has presented to more than 19,000 students at more than 60 schools across the state about the importance of setting goals, overcoming adversity and making good decisions. She also established Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls at Camp KV, for girls ages 8-11 to develop a healthy lifestyle.
To learn more about Olympian Julia Clukey, visit http://www.clukeyluge.com.
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