Olympic luger and Augusta native Julia Clukey acknowledged she just didn’t feel right at the end of last season.

“Sluggish and slow,” she said. “I wasn’t getting the results I wanted in the weight room. I couldn’t transfer my power into explosiveness. I knew then I had to change my training. I had to focus on the speed element of training. So I adjusted my weight lifting program and working on getting faster. I wanted to get better and now I’m really happy with the direction I’m going in.”

Clukey, 30, won her record eighth USA Luge women’s national start championship Friday at the team’s indoor training facility in Lake Placid, N.Y. Clukey finished in 3.051 seconds to edge Summer Britcher (3.072) and Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin (3.123).

The start championship is somewhat of a tuneup for the World Cup season, which begins in mid-November. Athletes are timed on two starts, which Clukey said tests reaction times.

“The starts, obviously, are very critical,” she said. “This really is a fun event. It’s a good way for us to motivate each other and to challenge ourselves.”

Clukey, who finished 17th in the luge at the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, added that her victory Friday confirmed her offseason training program paid off — at least for now.


“This is a direct result of the strength and training work I did in the offseason,” she said. “It’s about finding a rhythm on the sled. I used this as a gauge to see where I am in the sport. It’s good. Winning feels good. At the same time, I still feel like I have more work to do before the World Cup season begins. I am just looking to improve. I’m a very self-reflective person, especially athletically. Overall, I’m pretty happy with how things are going.”

Clukey’s best World Cup season came in 2007-08, when she finished 12th overall in women’s singles. In 2009 she finished fifth in the World Luge Championships in Lake Placid. She was considered one of the top American lugers but struggled in the 2013-14 season, finishing no better than 12th in her first three World Cup races. She also failed to qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia by a heart-wrenching .013 seconds.

Clukey returned home last December to ponder future plans but then announced six months later she would compete in at least one more World Cup season. She also hinted that trying to qualify for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, was a possibility as well.

She took a big first step Friday toward succeeding in the World Cup circuit.

“I like where I’m at,” said Clukey, who will remain in Lake Placid for about another week until she flies to Norway for more training. “Every time you win it feels so good. It’s an important first step. We’ll see how it goes from here.”

Tucker West — a World Cup race winner last season — won the men’s race in 2.794 seconds for his fourth championship.

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