AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) Julia Clukey wanted to take one more run at an Olympic team. Instead, she decided that any potential risk to her long-term health was not worth the chance.
Clukey retired from luge on Tuesday, ending a 19-year career that saw her compete in the 2010 Vancouver Games, win the U.S. national title two years later and claim a record eight national start championships. She cited ongoing complications related to Arnold-Chiari syndrome, a condition that causes brain tissue to extend into the spinal canal and cause a number of problems.
''I've had a great career,'' Clukey said, adding she has no regrets.
The 31-year-old Clukey first tried the sport at a luge recruiting event in Portland, Maine, saying she did so only in hopes of getting a free T-shirt. She got the shirt and more, including an invitation to train in Lake Placid, New York, with the national team.
Clukey was an annual fixture on the World Cup circuit, racing on all the major tracks in North America and Europe for years. She had brain surgery in 2011 to help relieve the issues caused by Arnold-Chiari and was able to return to racing the following year. She said more problems have popped up in recent months.
''It wasn't an easy decision to make, but I certainly am eager and looking ahead to the future and excited for the opportunities that will come,'' said Clukey, who recently completed her degree in electrical engineering. ''I feel very fortunate for the career that I've had in the sport of luge. Almost 20 years I spent sliding, competing and really feel so lucky that I was able to do something I love for so long.''
USA Luge was consulted about her health status and agreed that retiring was the right move.
''It was obvious the pain has escalated beyond a healthy tolerance,'' said Dr. Eugene Byrne, the team doctor for USA Luge. ''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.''
Clukey is active in her native Maine with outreach programs designed to inspire schoolchildren, and plans on continuing that work.