LILLEHAMMER, Norway — For the second consecutive year, a United States luge racer has won the Lillehammer Cup.
Vancouver Olympian Julia Clukey of Augusta raced to victory Saturday in the preseason event that concludes a training camp at the former Winter Olympics site.
Clukey’s win comes a year after Sochi Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin won the event. Clukey was the lone American in the field as her teammates and coaching staff departed Lillehammer for Lake Placid several days before the race.
“The Lillehammer Cup is a fun race the track puts on, and it was nice to get in the racing mindset so quick into the season,” Clukey said in a press release. “I’m happy to be leaving Norway with a really solid week of training. After struggling all of last season I wanted to dive in this year and immediately find my comfort and confidence on the sled. I was able to accomplish that this week.”
Clukey remained in Lillehammer and trained with Norway and Italy in the days preceding the race. She says the 1994 Olympic course typically helps to jumpstart her year.
“I have started my season in Norway for the past four years, “she continued. “It’s the best place for me because it immediately addresses my weaknesses and forces me to focus on them from day one.”
The 30-year-old, who is among the quickest off the start handles in every race, entered the USA Luge program in the late 1990s. She reached the high point of her World Cup career in February 2013 with a silver medal in Lake Placid. But given the nature of the international competition, track records continue to fall and athletes are only getting faster.
“I feel very confident that the changes I made this off season, in both my equipment and training, are putting me in a position to find success this season.”
The national team coaching staff has been integral to her success this fall.
“I’m thankful to coaches Miro (Zayonc) and Lubo (Mick) for welcoming my feedback and working with me this offseason to make some adjustments to my equipment to better suit my individual sliding style.”
Now Clukey, part of a strong and deep women’s national team that includes Hamlin, Emily Sweeney, Summer Britcher and Raychel Germaine, is getting ready to start sliding in Lake Placid with an eye toward the first of two seeding races on October 31.