Erin Hamlin has served as the face of luge in the United States for almost a decade. The three-time Olympian is the most decorated U.S. singles slider in history, having first won world championship gold in 2009 before winning three medals at the 2017 event – gold in sprint, silver in singles and team relay. In 2014, Hamlin earned bronze at the Olympic Winter Games 2014 to become the first U.S. singles luger ever to earn an Olympic medal. Follow Hamlin’s journey to a fourth Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, as she writes for TeamUSA.org.
Hey Team USA and/or USA Luge fans – and anybody just clicking away while procrastinating work…
My name is Erin Hamlin and I am a three-time Olympian, Olympic bronze medalist and 18-year member of the U.S. luge team. It is wonderful to meet you!
My Olympic debut was 11 years ago, as a teenager in Torino, Italy, and here I am, at 30, diving into the exciting and often chaotic process of qualifying for a fourth Olympic team. Crazy, right?? Never in a million years would I have imagined I’d be saying that. I grew up, as what I thought was as normal as you can, in Remsen, New York, a very small town just outside the Adirondack Park. I loved being outside, learning, gymnastics, and aspired to be an astronaut – until 12…when I found luge. You could say it shook things up a bit.
From the outside looking in, most people have one of two initial reactions to luge: The first is that my sport is crazy or that I’m crazy, or I have a death wish or some extreme adrenaline addiction that causes me to fling myself down a hill at breakneck speeds. The second is that I just fling myself down a hill and hang on tight, like you do in the park on a plastic sled you got for Christmas. For those of you who thought one of those two things and for those who immediately think of “Cool Runnings,” I am so excited to open your minds to the world of precision, dedication and extreme focus involved in being at the top of a sport timed to the thousandth of a second. One where you often don’t see where you’re going while at speeds up to 90 mph, when being in complete control is up to you in order to navigate about a mile of ice. In spandex.
These characteristics of luge are exactly why I got into the sport at a young age. It’s not that I was itching to test myself in these areas – I was actually a total chicken as a kid. There is really no other option if you want to make it in the sport. At the very beginning, your abilities are gradually honed by slowly working your way up the track, a few curves at a time, strengthening your abilities both before and as you build speed. It takes years to perfect the expertise of feeling the track or reading curves in order to make it down fast…or sometimes just make it down period.
I stepped outside my comfort zone 18 years ago and have not looked back. My sport has taken me all across the globe and introduced me to amazing people. I’ve been fortunate to not only find success in something I never even dreamed I’d have a passion for, but managed to make history on more than one occasion.
In the infancies of another Olympic season, here I am airport-hopping around North America and beyond, chasing down winter and temperatures cold enough for a track to hold ice. From home in upstate N.Y. to Lillehammer, Norway and both Whistler and Calgary, Canada, my team and I have already hit the ground running in the process of qualifying for and hopefully excelling at the upcoming Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.