From staff and wire reports
LAKE PLACID, New York — With family and friends cheering her on at her home track, Julia Clukey turned in the best performance of her career.
The Augusta native finished second, just .295 seconds behind Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, in the World Cup luge race at snowy Mount Van Hoevenberg on Friday.
“To have my first podium finish and to look across and see my family and friends there was pretty special,” said Clukey who finished with a two-run time of 1:28.735.
The performance continued what has been the best season of a career interrupted by a struggle with Arnold-Chiari Syndrome, which produces chronic headaches, fatigue and nausea. She underwent surgery in 2011 to have eight millimeters of bone shaved from her skull to relieve pressure.
With a large of group of family and friends cheering her on, Clukey followed the third-fastest time of the first heat with the third-best time of the second run.
“I’ve always said, it is easy to be a perfectionist in our sport,” Clukey said in a telephone interview
Friday evening. “You can get off the sled and think of five things you could have done differently. But I was really happy with the way I slid. I walked away knowing I did everything I could.”
Clukey said racing in Lake Placid was a key for her Friday.
“Lake Placid is our home track, I’ve got 10 times as many runs here as I do anywhere else,” Clukey said. “We slide here every year. We start the year here and end the year here. I know how to get myself out of trouble.”
Clukey’s silver medal was the best finish by an American since teammate Erin Hamlin won the 2009 world championship at Mount Van Hoevenberg.
Germany’s powerhouse luge team rolled with a pair of victories to clinch World Cup overall season titles.
Geisenberger completed a personably memorable seven days by taking the women’s competition and the team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt started the day with a win in the men’s doubles event.
After four years as the runner-up, Geisenberger won her first women’s world championship Saturday at Whistler, British Columbia. She celebrated her 25th birthday Wednesday and won the first World Cup in Lake Placid in six years.
“I had some big problems in training runs and my only hope was to get down two times without hitting a wall,” Geisenberger said. “It was two perfect runs. I’m happy about the win and the overall World Cup win today.”
Geisenberger had the two fastest times of the day, 44.295 seconds and 44.145, to win her fourth consecutive World Cup event and sixth of eight races this season. She was second in the other two events.
Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y, ended up fifth, Kate Hansen, of La Canada, Calif., was sixth and Emily Sweeney, of Suffield, Conn., was 10th.
Hamlin said she didn’t do as well as she had hoped in the first international luge event held in the track since she won the world title four years ago.
“I was fast in training, although I kind of had some of the same problems today as I did in training,” she said. “For how my runs were, I have to be happy with my fifth place. I had some big problems, especially in my second run. I clipped the wall in the chicane, which is not ideal. Usually I’m pretty dialed through there. Hopefully, the next time is better.
“But it is nice racing at home and I’m starting to feel a little bit more comfortable on the sled. Hopefully, I can build on that going into Sochi.” Hamlin said she enjoyed the rare opportunity to compete in front of her flag-waving family and friends.
Her brother, Sean, was one of four shirtless relatives with the letters of her name painted on their torsos.
“It’s definitely not a burden at all,” she said. “I love having so many people into the sport. As most people know it’s not exactly the most popular thing in the world. They have a blast and it’s an exciting thing. Sometimes I have this feeling of, ‘Man, I wish I was over with them. They’re having a really good time.’
“It brings everyone together and I get to see pretty much all of my relatives, which doesn’t happen very often, since I’m gone so much. It’s really nice to see everybody. They have a good time. It’s a good party.”
World champions Wendl and Arlt wrapped up the luge World Cup doubles title with their sixth victory in eight races this season. Wendl and Arlt completed the two runs in combined time of 1 minute, 28.256 seconds to finish 0.131 seconds ahead of Peter Penz and Georg Fischler of Austria.
The Italian team of Christain Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber was third. Wendl and Arlt captured the world championship title last weekend at Whistler, British Columbia, and were the World Cup winners in 2010-11.
They were able to lock up their second championship when their German teammates, Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, finished seventh. Eggert and Benecken needed to finish third or better to stay in contention for the title at the final event at Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 23-24.
The U.S. was led by Matthew Mortensen of Huntington Station, N.Y., and Preston Griffall of Salt Lake City, Utah, who were sixth, .657 seconds behind the winners with their top finish of the season.
“Those runs were the definitely the best runs we’ve had in all of training,” Mortensen said. “We had two nice, clean exits out the key corner, curve 12. The first run was real sweet. The second run we worked for a lot more. We definitely had to make it work. It wasn’t as free-flowing as the first one. From the start to the finish we really, really worked hard for that second run.”
Mortensen and Griffall are 11th in the overall World Cup standings entering the season finale on the 2014 Winter Olympics track at Sochi.
The second U.S. team of Jake Hyrns, of Muskegon, Mich. and Andrew Sherk, of Fort Washington, Pa., in its first full season on the World Cup tour, finished eighth.