Hamlin Wins First-Ever Singles Luge Medal for Team USA

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The U.S. crowd were on their feet celebrating at the Sanki Sliding Center located 37 miles northeast from Sochi, and even though many would think the United States got a gold medal victory from the roar of the crowd, it was instead a bronze medal that was worth a lot more than gold on Tuesday night as American luger Erin Hamlin ended a 50-year drought for Team USA.

After averaging four 50-second runs, the 27-year-old from upstate New York clocked in at a total time of 3:21.145 earning a bronze medal and making her the first U.S. Olympian to medal in the Singles Luge event.

In a sport that is dominated by Germans and Austrians, Hamlin was once again coming in as an underdog after her disappointing run at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. But it was a surprise in Sochi as Hamlin crossed the finish line in her final run knowing that she just secured a bronze medal for the U.S. and was lost for words after making Olympic history.

“…My mindset was great, I had no expectations on myself really, I just really wanted to nail four solid runs,” said Erin Hamlin in a news conference after winning bronze. “It’s pretty unbelievable and I did not expect to be on the podium. I was coming in thinking if I had my best Olympics at all I’d be excited – which would’ve been a top 12.”

Before the Sochi Winter Games, Hamlin dedicated this year’s Olympic run for her grandmother who was a passenger that was tragically killed on Dec. 9 in a head-on collision in New York. There were questions surrounding Hamlin if she would compete in the Olympics after mourning the death of one of her biggest supporters just two days after she secured a spot on the Olympic team.

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Hamlin ended up going to Sochi and winning the first medal for the USA Luge program; 50 years after the Luge event made its Olympic debut at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Austria.

Making her third Olympic appearance for the United States, Hamlin was considered to be on the downside of her career coming into the 2014 Sochi Winter Games after failing to medal in her previous two Olympic appearances and struggling on the world stage after winning gold in 2009 at the World Championships.

At the 2006 Winter Olympics, then-19-year-old Hamlin was a top competitor coming in and the young superstar was on everyone’s Olympic radar after starting her luging career just one-year before. Hamlin ended up finishing 12th overall and four years later in Vancouver Hamlin finished 16th in a disappointing Olympic run.

After the highs and lows of her career, the 2009 World Champion wasn’t on top of the podium Tuesday night when she received her bronze medal, but it didn’t matter – Hamlin made history.

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You can follow David Pradel on Twitter: @davepradel_

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