Just one day after doubling Team USA’s world championship medal production in women’s luge by earning the sprint world title, Erin Hamlin tripled it by taking singles silver Saturday at the 47th FIL World Luge Championships in Igls, Austria.
Eight years after her gold medal was the first of any color won by a women’s slider from outside of Europe, Hamlin found her way to the podium once again. A speedy first run found her in second place with a time of 39.908 seconds, 0.079 seconds behind four-time world champion Tatjana Huefner of Germany, whose 39.829 time was only 0.002 away from the track record. With three-time defending world champion Natalie Geisenberger mired in 17th place, the title was for the taking.
Hamlin reeled off a 40.017 on her second run for a total time of 1:19.925, which was good enough to get past Canada’s Kimberly McRae, who vaulted from 11th after the first run to take bronze with her 1:19.952. But Huefner proved to be untouchable as she finished with a 1:19.712 to claim an unprecedented fifth world title.
“I was very comfortable coming to the race,” Hamlin said in a post-race television interview. “Getting yesterday under my belt was a really good start to the weekend and I was able to relax a little bit. My second run wasn’t my best, so I was coming to to the end and hoping that was good enough. It feels great to have a solid big race. It’s kind of surreal.”
With her third world medal, Hamlin became the most decorated U.S. woman in the event’s history, beating out Ashley Walden, who has two mixed team silvers from 2004-05.
She remains the only U.S. woman to win an individual medal at worlds.
It also marked Team USA’s first silver in singles luge, after a 1993 gold medal in men’s by Wendel Suckow and golds by Hamlin in 2009 and 2017 (sprint).
The results were another indication that a sea change may be developing a year before from the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Hamlin led a stunning showing by North American sliders as four of the top five finishers were either American or Canadian: Summer Britcher placed fourth for Team USA, just 0.035 seconds away from the podium, and Canadian Alex Gough was fifth. Seven different nations have been represented on the podium after four races at the 2017 world championships.
“A lot of the nations that weren’t some of the dominant forces in the past have really come on strong,” Hamlin noted. “Our program, Canada and Russia have all stormed ahead. It makes racing so close and so competitive, and you really have to be on your game and sliding your best every week, which is how it should be at this level.”
With the medal, the three-time Olympian sends a message that she will be in the hunt for her second Olympic medal next year in PyeongChang after taking bronze in 2014.
Team USA saw all four sliders advance to the second run as Emily Sweeney finished 15th at 1:20.411 and Raychel Germaine was 16th at 1:20.419. The U.S. and Germany were the only two nations to place all four entries in the top 20.