AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Olympian Julia Clukey officially announced her retirement from the sport of luge Tuesday at a press conference at the Kennebec Valley YMCA in her hometown.
She made the announcement based on recent concerns about her future health related to onset of pain she has experienced from Arnold-Chiari malformation, a congenital brain condition that she has endured throughout her career.
“I’ve always known that I wouldn’t be able to luge forever. I had planned to retire after 2018, but as I have told students in my presentations, in life you are going to face adversity and it is up to you how you respond to those situations that defines you. At this point, the level of pain during and after my workouts really limits my training and could impact my future health,” Clukey said.
“With the support of my family, friends, doctors and USA Luge, I recognize that my health is the No. 1 priority and strongly believe this is the best decision for me. I am going to approach this decision as a new opportunity,” she added.
Clukey had brain surgery in 2011 to attempt to limit the pain in her neck and skull. She said the condition has resurfaced and severely impacted her ability to train at the level necessary for her to compete at the Olympic level.
“Julia started having recurring symptoms related to her Arnold-Chiari at the end of this past winter season. Throughout the off-season, we have continued to monitor and track the symptoms and pain level. It was obvious the pain has escalated beyond a healthy tolerance,” Dr. Eugene Byrne, team doctor of the USA Luge team, said.
“As part of this decision, we factored in the dedication and intensity of the way Julia trains and competes. Julia always wants to give 110 percent. However, she understands that the pain isn’t going to go away and, that at this point, aggravating it more could cause future health concerns,” he added. “With assistance from a neurosurgeon we made the decision that retirement is best; in making this decision, she is making a very responsible decision for her future.”
Clukey, 31, first tried the sport of luge at age 12 during a recruiting event in downtown Portland and has competed in the sport for 19 years. Her career has been highlighted by finishing 17th at the 2010 Olympics, and winning the Norton U.S. National Championship in 2012 and two silver medals in World Cup competition. Clukey also nearly qualified for the 2014 Olympics, missing the team by 0.013 seconds.
Clukey announced that her future plans include committing more time to her outreach to young students through her “Julia Inspires” campaign as spokeswoman for the Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association.