AUGUSTA — Olympic luger Julia Clukey announced her retirement from the sport Tuesday, citing health concerns.
At a news conference at the Kennebec Valley YMCA, the 31-year-old Augusta native cited symptoms from Arnold-Chiari malformation for deciding to call it a career.
“At the end of the (2015-16) season, I started having reoccurring symptoms that I knew fairly quickly were related to Arnold-Chiari,” she said. “Throughout the spring, I met with my team of doctors and really came to the conclusion that it’s in my best interest toward the life I want for myself long term to hang up my sled and walk away from the sport of luge at this time.”
In 2010, Clukey was diagnosed with Arnold-Chiari, a brain disorder involving structural defects that can cause severe head and neck pain, balance problems, muscle weakness and numbness, among other symptoms. She underwent brain surgery in 2011 to attempt to limit the pain in her neck and skull.
Clukey returned to competition and won the national luge title in 2012 and two silver medals in World Cup competition. She later missed qualifying for the 2014 Winter Olympics by .013 seconds, but put off retirement in hopes of qualifying for the 2018 Olympics. Last November, she fell one spot short of qualifying for the U.S. World Cup team.
Clukey finished 17th in her lone Olympic appearance in 2010. She finished 12th in the final World Cup standings in 2008 and 13th in 2010. She also won four International Luge Start gold medals.
On Tuesday, Clukey said her retirement plans include continuing as spokesman for the Maine Beer and Wine Distributors Association as well as continuing her “Julia Inspires” campaign. She plans to spend more time talking to students around the state and to continue working with Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls on Maranacook Lake.
Clukey earned her degree in electrical engineering from DeVry Institute in 2015 and works at WEX in Portland as a recruiter.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I am certainly going to be here and looking ahead and I’m excited about the opportunities that will come,” she said.