Augusta’s Julia Clukey returned Monday to Lake Placid, N.Y., to train with the U.S. Luge team, six months after surgery curtailed her World Cup season.

Clukey had a centimeter of bone shaved from the base of her skull last March to correct a congenital condition known as Arnold-Chiari Syndrome that limited blood flow to her spinal column. The surgery was performed by reknowned Olympic physician Robert Bray, who also confirmed Clukey’s diagnosis after she complained of headaches at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

“I feel pretty good,” Clukey said. “I still have some headaches but not anywhere near where they were. I just have to get on a sled and see.”

The luge run at Lake Placid opens Monday with the first World Cup race scheduled in Igls, Austria on Nov. 26. Clukey took three months off after her surgery before she resumed weightlifting and agility training in June.

“I’m not in as good shape as I have been, but I’m gaining every week,” she said. “I’m not where I want to be right now, but in another six weeks I’ll be set.”

At 26, Clukey is just starting to enter the prime years in her sport. She has her sights set on the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and said it’s not as far off as it seems.

“It really goes so fast,” Clukey said. “Our season is so short, so it’s really important to make every run count.”

Clukey, who placed 17th at the Vancouver Games, finished fifth in an early-season World Cup race in Utah which qualified her for the World Championship in Italy, where she placed 12th. But her headaches became more intense and started to drain her energy, so she cut her season short.

Clukey said she would like to be about eight pounds heavier by the time the first World Cup race comes around since she lost weight after her surgery and has yet to gain it all back. She’s guaranteed a spot on the World Cup team for now but will have to work to keep it.

“We have a strong group of girls there in Lake Placid,” she said. “Nothing’s set in stone.”

Clukey placed second in the U.S. Nationals two years ago, but her best finish in a World Cup race is fourth.

“I’ve never won a World Cup medal,” she said. “That’s something I’d really like to do.”

During the offseason, Clukey has visited dozens of schools around the state on behalf of the Maine Beer and Wine Distributors Association. She talks to students about her luge career, which began 14 years ago, and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]


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