Amy Donaldson: Balance is how Julia Clukey will overcome disappointment of losing her Olympic dream
“It’s the pinnacle of our sport,” she said. “It’s what you work for — day in and day out. I have very fond memories, and it was a huge moment in my life for myself, my family and my friends.”
Clukey said she has to stay in shape and will even continue sliding as an alternate for the U.S. luge team. And while she hasn’t decided what the future holds for her when it comes to the sport she loves, she has plenty to keep her busy.
At the top of that list is Olivia’s son, Lucas.
“He was there Friday and I don’t think he’s ever seen me upset,” she said. “He asked what was wrong, and I said, ‘I slid a little too slow.’ He said, ‘You were faster than a rocket ship.’ It’s very easy when I’m around him to put things in perspective.”
Clukey, her mom and her older sister, Amelia, have a great relationship with Lucas’ father, which allows them to spend a significant amount of time with him.
“He’s really the most important thing, and I want to make sure he’s loved and brought up in a great environment,” she said. “My sister (Olivia) is still a big part of my life. I’ll always have two sisters. We want to make sure he never loses that connection with his mother’s family.”
She knows that someday there will be a difficult discussion about mental illness, but right now she wants the almost 5-year-old boy just to know how much his mother loved him.
“Mental illness still doesn’t get the recognition it deserves,” she said. “There is such a stigma around it. It’s so hard. It’s a daily battle for people who struggle with it, and it’s something that’s just not understood.”
When asked about her future in the sport, she said she’s still processing what happened this weekend and what it means to her future.
“I would like to thank my coach Miko Zayonc, who has supported me as a person and an athlete since the beginning of my career, and particularly the last few years as I tried to rebuild myself as an athlete, and these past six weeks for believing in me right up to the final run,” she said. Gratitude punctuates every sentence Clukey speaks.
Instead of looking at how others might ease her pain, she’s already planning ways in which she can repay those who’ve supported her. At the top of that list is Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls at Camp KV on Maranacook Lake in Readfield, Maine. The camp is for girls ages 8 to 11, and Clukey hopes to help them develop self-confidence through sport and a love of healthy lifestyles.
“When I’m doing something, I give it all of my energy,” she said. “If I’m training, I give that 100 percent. When I’m home, I try to be present 100 percent. It’s so important in life to give whatever you do 100 percent.”
Friday’s experience still stings. But it hasn’t even dampened her affection for sliding.
“I’m very glad that I’ve been involved in the sport of luge for 15 years,” she said. “I love sliding. It keeps me going. I’m very fortunate to have found something that I love doing. A lot of people, it takes them awhile to find something that they like, that they’re good at. I have no regrets about anything I’ve done in the sport.”
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