Three-time Olympian Erin Hamlin opened the 47th FIL Luge World Championships Friday morning in the best way possible, breaking an eight-year medal drought for Team USA by taking women’s sprint gold in Igls, Austria.
The last American woman to earn a world championship medal with her 2009 title, Hamlin covered the Igls course in 30.074 seconds to edge Switzerland’s Martina Kocher by 0.009. Germany’s Tatjana Huefner took bronze, just 0.001 behind Kocher, while Emily Sweeney narrowly missed giving Team USA a double podium with a time 0.005 away from third place.
Friday marked the second time that sprint races have been held at the world championships after making their debut last year in Königssee, Germany. In sprint races, athletes only race one run instead of two and the clock starts 100 meters into the run.
The world title continues a strong season for Hamlin, the bronze medalist at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Last December in Park City, Utah, she won gold in both the sprint and singles world cup races and currently is third in world cup standings with 494 points, just six ahead of Sweeney. Hamlin is the only American woman to medal at the Olympics and at the world championships.
Summer Britcher, a 2014 Olympian, finished 11th, 0.067 behind Hamlin.
The women return to the Igls track Saturday for worlds singles competition.