julia clukey 
Kate Hansen, me and Erin Hamlin with our USA Luge Start
Championship medals

Competing in the sport of luge, your chances to showcase excellence are limited. Our Olympic competition clocks in at less than four minutes, our World Cups under two minutes, and this past week our kickoff event for the season, the USA Luge Start Championship lasted just over 6 seconds for each competitor. It was the combination of two reaction starts. Our newly elected Olympic discipline is the team relay in which one man, woman, and doubles sleds compete for a total time. What differentiates this from our normal competitions is that the start is a reaction start, with a gate that opens simultaneously with the prior sled finishing their run. Mid-September the U.S. Olympic Committee helped our federation to install a reaction gate similar to that used in the World Cup team event so we may practice in anticipation of the relay next year in Sochi.

Getting back to the Start Championship, this is the first test for our team to see where we stand in perspective to our strength. A good start is crucial to being a medal contender in our sport. Last year of all the World Cup medals available over 60% of them were won with an athlete who had a top 3 start for their discipline. For me this event was very important as it was the first test for me from recovering fully from my Arnold Chiari decompression surgery in March 2011. I competed in the second part of last year’s schedule, but it wasn’t until July of this year that I started to feel “athlete” strong and that I had fully recovered. I won the woman’s division at the USA Luge Start Championship by a margin of just .01 hundredths of a second over my teammate Kate Hansen. While that equates to less than an inch of ice in the competition, it is much greater to me.

What has it taken to get my start back to top form? I looked back over my training journal and since May 1st I have done the following: 1,097 pull ups/chin ups, 536 reps of bench press, 237 reps of close grip bench, 560 12lb med ball tosses, 623 various triceps exercise repetitions, and more crunches, sit ups, planks, leg raise, ab exercises than I count in one sitting. In our sport we are racing for inches, and anything less of winning this past week would have been disappointing. With every workout, every repetition I have thought about having the power back in my start and after this competition and my physical testing I can say with great pride that I have succeeded. I am more excited than ever to see what this year holds for me, I feel strong mentally, physically and ready to attack every run.  I am currently packing up here in Lake Placid, and heading over to start my on ice sliding season in Lillehammer, Norway. We have limited access to the track in Lake Placid this fall, and I want to head into the season as prepared as possible, which for me as an athlete means lots and lots of runs. I like to head into my competitive season with a minimum of 100 runs of training, and with my plan for the next month I should exceed that easily.