December 13, 2013

Maine's Clukey on Olympic bubble after 6th-place finish

The former Olympian could still receive a berth on the team going to Sochi in February.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Needing a top-five finish to guarantee a spot on the U.S. Olympic women’s luge team, Augusta’s Julia Clukey finished sixth by less than a tenth of a second in Friday’s World Cup event at Park City, Utah.

click image to enlarge

Julia Clukey starts during the women's race of the luge World Cup in Winterberg, Germany, on Dec. 1.

The Associated Press

Clukey put together two strong runs, a 44.003 on the first run and a 44.000 on the second, to put herself in position to earn her second Olympic berth. She had an aggregate time of 1:28.003. Fifth-place finisher Dajana Eitberger of Germany finished in 1:27.990.

The 28-year-old Clukey, who competed in the 2010 Olympics, was the second U.S. finisher. Kate Hansen finished fourth at 1:27.929. Clukey could still qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, which will be announced at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Clukey satisfied one of the three tiers of criteria with her sixth-place finish. She previously had two top-12 finishes in World Cup competition.

Erin Hamlin has already qualified for the Olympic team. She finished eighth Friday.

Hansen’s fourth-place finish earned her a spot on the Olympic team.

That would leave the final slot for either Clukey or Summer Britcher, who finished ninth on Friday. That gave Britcher two top-nine finishes, which is the second tier of criteria for selection. Clukey satisfied the third tier, which is a top-nine finish and two top-12s.

The first tier for criteria to be selected is a top-five finish.

Clukey started strong in her first run, having one of the best starts and the best time after the third checkpoint. She finished in 44.003 seconds, which was good enough for second at the time behind teammate Summer Britcher, who is also vying for the final berth. But many of the top lugers had yet to go.

At the end of the first round, Clukey found herself in eighth place, with her three American teammates, three German lugers and Canadian Alex Gough all ahead of her, all under 44 seconds.

It was an extremely close first run. Hansen was second at 43.900, Britcher was fourth at 43.968 and Hamlin was seventh at 43.994.

Clukey came into this Olympic season favored as one of the three women to make the U.S. singles luge team. But after finishing second in the Norton U.S. Luge National Championships in October, she couldn’t translate that success to the World Cup circuit.

In three events in Europe, she finished 19th, 12th and 13th. Last week, at the 2012 Olympic track in Whistler, British Columbia, Clukey finished 10th.

She had competed in the 2012 Vancouver Winter Olympics, finishing 17th in the luge. She had her best World Cup season ever in 2012-13. She won two silver medals and was ranked sixth in the world at the end of the season.

Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

 

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