Samson of the Bible drew his strength from his hair. Olympic medalist Erin Hamlin and her Team USA luge teammates are hoping to use theirs to lend a little hope to an ailing younger slider.
Hamlin, Aidan Kelly, Chris Mazdzer, Jayson Terdiman and Matt Mortensen, along with coach Bill Tavares, have pledged to sheer their locks at the end of the month in a fundraising effort for 14-year-old Duncan Segger. Segger has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
With funding for Olympic sports in non-Olympic years usually short, and the Segger family having to concentrate on Duncan’s treatment, Hamlin is looking to raise enough money to give the young feet-first sledding daredevil the ambition to return to sliding knowing that his training expenses are covered.
“I wanted to say: ‘OK, you beat cancer.’ But I want him to keep the dream of being athlete. I want him to focus on that instead of being sick,” Hamlin said.
The idea of cutting their hair is to show support for Segger, who has lost his from chemotherapy. It’s significant for many to chop their locks, but even more so for Hamlin, a 5-foot-7, 27-year-old whose hair extends to her waist.
It also will be noticeable for 2014 Olympian Terdiman, whose hair is “pretty out of control with some mop thing going on,” Hamlin said.
The sextet launched the effort on the fundraising site Crowdrise on April 9, and as of Monday morning had raised $3,410, more than double their initial target of $1,500.
They’ll keep it going through the end of the month, when the hair will come off.
Hamlin, whose bronze medal in 2014 is the only medal won by an American in singles luge at the Olympic Winter Games, wasn’t a close friend of Segger but knew of him in the luge program and heard his story.
Segger, who began sliding when he was 10, received word on Christmas Eve that the biopsy on a lump in his neck indicated Hodgkin’s, and surgery the day after Christmas confirmed it.
He had another operation in January, returned to competition to win a silver medal at the Empire State Games, began chemotherapy in February and then went to Park City, Utah, for the Junior National Championships, where he won three bronze medals.
Hamlin was aware of Segger as “one of the kids bombing around in classes” at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid. Segger’s mother sent Hamlin a congratulatory message after she won her Olympic medal.
Segger’s plight struck a chord with Hamlin.
Hamlin, who lives in the small town of Remsen, New York, understands what it is like living in the relatively rural upstate New York, including Lake Placid, where the Seggers also reside.
“It’s a small community, and the sport community is even smaller,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know him or them extremely well. It was just one of those things. I could understand what he was going through.
“He’s still an athlete. I want him to be an athlete after the cancer.”
Brian Trusdell has covered four FIFA World Cups and six Olympic Games during his more than 30 years as a sportswriter, mostly with the Associated Press and Bloomberg News. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.