Julia Clukey
 Podium at the Igls, Austria World Cup (that’s me in the yellow pants!)
Julia Clukey
Entertainment at the Igls World Cup. It made us lugers feel sane  :)
Julia Clukey
We are practical jokers on our team,
humoring ourselves at our favorite gym in Austria.
Teammates Kate Hansen, Emily Sweeney,
Chris Mazdzer, Preston Griffall and myself.

We are done!!! For the year 2012 that is. I am now enjoying our much-needed mid-season Christmas Break. Being home allows me to really clear my head, reflect on the season to this point, set new goals for the remainder of the season, and eat lots of yummy food. I always look forward to this “re-grouping” time. We had four World Cups thus far – I have had one great race, two mediocre races, and one bad race. Overall I am still very optimistic with where I am headed this season and the moves I am making forward in my quest to return to the Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia.

The first World Cup of the year was in Igls, Austria. It is a relatively slow track for us with top speeds, but the racing is extremely close. I finished sixth in the World Cup which is my best finish ever on that track. I also had the fastest starts in each of the heats. The start of my season domestically was so successful so I was very anxious to get the first World Cup out of the way to see where I stood amongst my international competitors. This result solidified for me that I am ready for the season, and that if I do my job and slide well I will be in the hunt every weekend.

The next two races were in Germany; the first was in Konigssee, Germany. This is one of my favorite tracks to compete on. At the top portion of the track the drives have to be really precise, with the bottom half being more flowing and speed is important. I tend to enjoy driving tracks vs. gliding tracks, as they tend to play to my strengths in the sport. I strained my back early in the week and unfortunately missed most of the training for the week; I was able to take two runs at the end of the week, which was necessary in order to meet the qualifications to race in the World Cup. The first run of the race I had a ninth place run, I had small problems in the run, and my start was a bit slower than normal because of my back. I was still in the hunt being just .15 seconds out of sixth place. On my second run I really went for it and was having a great run with fifth-place split times (the intermediate times down the track) but I made a driving error before one of the straightaway sections of the track and lost a lot of speed and ended up in 21st place. Luckily Konigssee was selected as the replacement race for the race we were supposed to have in Cesana, Italy; so we will be back in Konigssee right after the Christmas break and I will certainly be looking for some redemption.

Our third race of the season was in Altenberg, Germany; of all the tracks we slide and race on, this is a track that I have never been able to find the right rhythm on. At this point in my career I think it is as much a mental game for me than a lack of skill in sliding. But nevertheless I had a very rough week of training, which continued into the race where I had two “clean runs” (I didn’t hit any walls); but they were far from good. I ended up 22nd place.

The final race before the break was in Sigulda, Latvia. It was a cold and windy week, living up to the usual weather we experience in Latvia as it is located a short 30 miles away from the Baltic Sea. I enjoy sliding in Sigulda, however the way the track is built can weigh heavily on my performance there. This year is the best I think the track has ever been; it was smooth, fast, and hard ice. I finished 10th in the race. I was happy to be back in the top 10 after two rocky races the prior to weeks, but I know that I am capable of better.

Moving forward in the season, I hope to slide to the best of my ability and be back in the top eight. The most important thing for me to focus on as we get closer and closer to next year and the Sochi Olympics is that my only job is to get the sled down the hill clean and smooth. My equipment is running great, I have one of the fastest starts in the women’s field, and knowing those two things gives me great confidence in myself that if I slide well I will be where I want to be in the rankings. Happy New Year everyone!!!