IGLS, Austria — Julia Clukey’s return to elite level luge racing took another step forward Saturday as the Augusta native used the best starts of the women’s race and finished sixth in the World Cup opener in the Tyrolean Alps.
Clukey has been mostly absent from World Cup competition the past two seasons due to the effects and eventual surgery to address Arnold-Chiari Syndrome. The 2010 Olympian also surgically corrected a knee issue during that time. This was her fifth best international career result after a fourth place in a Lake Placid, N.Y. World Cup, fifth in the 2009 World Championships, also in Lake Placid, fifth in a Koenigssee, Germany World Cup and fifth in a Park City, Utah World Cup. She recently captured the Norton National Championships in Lake Placid.
“My first run, I was a little too tense . . . a little nervous, I guess,” Clukey said. “It didn’t feel very fluid. But I was really happy with my second run and tried to carry speed down the track. There were small things both runs, but that’s Igls.”
The women’s event was surprising on several fronts: Five-time World Cup overall winner and 2010 Olympic champion Tatjana Huefner of Germany did not take a medal; her teammate Anke Wischnewski, 34, won her first race in eight years and established a track record despite slow starts; Russian Tatiana Ivanova, a 2012 World Cup winner and 2012 World Championship silver medalist, had problems in the lower section during the second and final heat to place behind Clukey; American Erin Hamlin, 16th after one run, staged a significant rally in the second leg to improve five spots to 11th.
Huefner took fourth place, 2012 World Junior Champion Aileen Fritsch finished fifth and Clukey was next in 1:20.410.
“In the first run I fell into my old habits of trying to control the sled,” Clukey said. “I’m constantly working on that . . . in letting the sled run and finding the speed that I create for myself at the start. So I reset in the second run and went back to what I’ve been focusing on in my training.”