— In position to make history on the second day of the women’s luge singles competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Erin Hamlin managed to stay relaxed.
But the medal ceremony the next day had her rattled.
“It was actually way more terrifying than my race,” said Hamlin, who scored the bronze. “I was nervous I would do something wrong. Before the ceremony, they kind of brief you on what to do. And the clothing that you wear — you have to have a specific outfit. I was worried if it would look OK.”
Who could blame her for feeling a little stage fright? Not only had Hamlin never been on an Olympic podium before, but neither had any other U.S. singles luger.
She made it through the ceremony without a hitch, and now she’s enjoying the rest of the Olympics before bringing her bronze medal back to New York.
The Remsen native learned to slide in Lake Placid and now lives and trains there. She was disappointed to miss the podium at the 2010 Olympics, and she went into last week’s event with a different approach.
“I really came into the race with no expectations. This season, I was super consistent, but I hadn’t gotten on the podium — it had been a while since I had,” Hamlin said by phone from Russia.
“I just wanted to have a great two days and be happy with my sliding. This is my third Olympics, and I kind of came in thinking, ‘This is a good chance to be back here. Enjoy the moment, leave everything on the track and have a great race.’
“I think taking all the pressure off from trying to perform a certain way helped a lot. I was able to be relaxed and free in my mind.”
‘FELT SO GREAT’
Hamlin sat in third place after two runs Feb. 10, and she put together two more strong runs the next day to cement her spot on the podium.
Once she got over her pre-medal-ceremony jitters, she was able to soak it all in.
“It was pretty crazy, actually,” she said. “It’s a moment that you dream about as a winter athlete. I never really thought I would be there.
“It felt so great. I’ve watched so many medal ceremonies in both the Summer and Winter Olympics, and to have that moment on my own is so cool.”
Since her race, Hamlin has been through “kind of a whirlwind.”
She’s done numerous interviews and made an appearance on the “Today Show.” She also competed in the luge team relay, which made its Olympic debut.
But she said her most exciting experience since winning the medal was attending the Russia-U.S. men’s hockey thriller Saturday.
Hamlin called all of the media attention “surreal” and hopes it will be good for luge.
Her sport, she said, is “definitely not a big attention-grabber. Even during the Games, I don’t think it’s high on the list of popular sports (in the United States),” she said.
“So it’s been really great. The sliding sports so far ... have been shining in the spotlight pretty well. I’m excited to hopefully bring more attention to luge, get it on the radar and hopefully pave the way for the future.”
Reaching the Olympic podium was always a goal. Making history wasn’t, necessarily. But Hamlin hopes her medal in Sochi will help spur more American success in luge.
She was introduced to the sport through the USA Luge Slider Search, which holds events around the country to recruit kids. Now Hamlin has teamed with Citi Every Step of the Way to raise money for Slider Search.
“It’s cool because that’s how I got into the sport, and now I’ve come full circle as a medalist,” she said. “To be able to give money to the program, I’m really pumped about it.”
Hamlin had planned to stick around Sochi for a while but will leave shortly, before the Olympics’ end. She has had a lot of support from home and is looking forward to returning.
“I’ve been getting pictures, text messages, videos. I think it’s kind of been a continuous celebration,” Hamlin said.
“I’m really excited to get back and share this with everybody and celebrate with them.”
Email Courtney Lewis:firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @sportsCourt