Julia Clukey of Augusta returned to the luge sled last month newly motivated by her first Winter Olympics.

Her focus is back on the big picture 10 months after sliding to a 17th-place finish at the Vancouver Games, where her sport made headlines with the tragic death of a Georgian slider.

“There’s a lot less excitement around this year,” said Clukey. “But I’m such a self-driven person, the only thing that motivates me is myself. You come in with a four-year plan, so timewise you start looking at the bigger picture again. It’s a little free-ing knowing it’s four years until the next Games.”

In three World Cups this season, Clukey has placed in the top 20. She finished 11th in Igls, Austria Nov. 27 to start the season, 12th in Winterberg, Germany Dec. 5, and 17th in Calgary, Alberta Dec. 11.

“I want to keep attacking, keep working on my slide and find the time to find a sled that is comfortable and fast,” said Clukey. “I’m looking for that extra speed.”

Clukey had a neck injury a year ago this month that nearly derailed her Olympic plans. She said residual problems are minimal and she feels strong and in control.

“It’s doing pretty good so far. I’ve had a couple of bad days, but overall I’m pretty happy with how I’ve been able to maintain,” she said.

She uses traction, does neck stretches, takes ibuprofen and does rehab exercises for her shoulder and neck to keep things stabilized.

Known for her fast starts, Clukey is working on finding speed in the rest of her slide and that same internal motivation that has kept her going since first racing more than a decade ago.

“My biggest weakness has always been relaxing on the sled,” said Clukey. “I’ve always just focused inward, on my sliding, everything I can control.”

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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