Julia Clukey’s quest for a second straight trip to the Winter Olympics came up 13 one-thousandths of a second short Friday night.
The 28-year-old Augusta native placed sixth overall at the final World Cup luge stop of the season at Park City, Utah, one spot from the top-five finish that would have guaranteed her a berth on the U.S. Olympic team that will compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Clukey’s combined two-run time on the Park City course was 1 minute, 28.003 seconds, just behind fifth-place Dajana Eitberger of Germany, whose two runs totaled 1:27.990.
“It was obviously very close,” said Sandy Caligiore, public relations coordinator for USA Luge.
Clukey achieved the “C” or third of three selection criteria with her Park City performance, that of one top-nine World Cup finish to go with two earlier top-12 finishes at Iglis, Austria (12th) and Whistler, British Columbia (10th).
But that wasn’t quite good enough to land one of the three available spots on the U.S. team.
“After giving it my all and finishing sixth tonight in the World Cup, I did not qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics,” Clukey said in a Facebook posting Friday night. “I am heartbroken now missing the team by a mere .013 of a second, but I know I will get through this a stronger person. Thank you all so much for your unwavering support over the past few years, I am sorry to have not performed better this past month. Best of luck to my teammates.”
Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., already had achieved the “A” selection standard, with her fifth-place finish at Whistler, automatically earning her a third Olympic berth.
Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., joined Hamlin in achieving the “A” standard and gaining an automatic roster spot by finishing fourth at Park City.
And 19-year-old Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa., edged Clukey out for the final U.S. team berth as she achieved the higher “B” standard of two top-nine World Cup finishes by placing eighth overall at Park City to go with an earlier ninth-place effort in Austria.
“It’s unfortunate for Julia,” said Caligiore. “We all love her, and we admire everything she stands for and all the work she’s put into this.”
USA Luge will announce its roster for the 2014 Winter Games, pending U.S. Olympic Committee approval, on Saturday night.
The 28-year-old Clukey — who placed 17th at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia — finished the first of two tightly contested runs on Park City’s 2002 Olympic course in eighth place overall with a time of 44.003 seconds. That was fourth among the U.S. competitors behind Hansen (second in 43.900), Britcher (fourth in 43.968) and Hamlin (seventh in 43.994).
Clukey, who posted a fifth-place World Cup finish on the same course three years ago, completed her evening run in 44.003 seconds, a time nearly identical to her first run.
The combined two-run time pushed Clukey past both Hamlin (44.020 second run for 1:28.014 overall, eighth place) and Britcher (44.055 second run for 1:28.023 overall, ninth place) into second place among the American contingent but fell just short of landing her the top-five finish that would have earned her a ticket to Sochi.
Erin Sweeney, a Falmouth native now living in Suffield, Conn., was eliminated from Olympic team contention when Clukey and Britcher each achieved a selection criteria at Park City.
If both had not achieved a selection criteria, Sweeney, the 2013 world junior champion, would have joined Clukey and Britcher in a run-off for the final berth.
No U.S. woman has ever won an Olympic luge medal.