Erin Hamlin reacts after the women's singles luge competition at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 13, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Erin Hamlin called it a career Tuesday night.
“This is it,” the luge slider said. “I feel good. I’m ready for some pizza, maybe. And a lonnnng bit of sleeping.”
Hamlin’s last run at Alpensia’s Olympic Sliding Centre wasn’t her best, but she had an impressive run as Team USA’s top female athlete in her sport for nearly a decade.
Four-time Olympian. Olympic bronze medalist. Two-time world champion. Flag bearer for Team USA at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Hamlin, 31, placed sixth in women’s singles for her second-best Olympic finish after her bronze medal four years ago in Sochi.
When Hamlin crossed the finish line on her fourth run, she said her first thought was, “Shooo… I totally ruined that run. Because I’m a competitor, you know? I wanted to really end on a good note and didn’t, so that was a bummer. But I guess I can look at the positives. The problem I was trying to fix, I fixed.”
After the first two runs on Monday, Hamlin was in fifth place, .236 slower than eventual gold medalist Natalie Geisenberger of Germany.
Hamlin lost ground on the third run, posting a time 46.506 seconds. She went for broke on her fourth run, cleaning up the problems she had on previous runs, but briefly touching down her feet while coming out of the notorious No. 9 turn. Her time of 46.716 seconds was her worst of the competition as she slid into sixth place.
But on a day when one teammate, Emily Sweeney, had a spectacular crash – she was banged up, but OK – and another, Summer Britcher, veered into the wall at the start for a costly mistake dropping her from eighth to 19th place, Hamlin was again Team USA’s best.
She finished with a time of 3 minutes, 5.912 seconds, .268 out of bronze-medal position and .680 behind Geisenberger.
“This is probably one of the closest Olympic races that I’ve ever been in,” Hamlin said. “It was really exciting and it would have been nice to capitalize on the situation, but yeah, I had fun. It was a good experience and I’m ready to sleep a little bit.”
She said she’s usually in bed by 10 p.m., but in PyeongChang she was giving interviews at that hour.
And Hamlin said she was at peace with her decision to hang up her sled.
“I definitely don’t have regrets,” Hamlin said. “I’m relieved that I can tell it’s the right moment. You don’t want to come back the next fall and seeing everyone start the season and be like, ‘Ohmygosh, I feel like I should still be there.’”
Hamlin started sliding at age 12 in 1999 after taking part in a talent identification event. By 2005, she was competing in her first world championships.
Hamlin finished 12th in her first Olympic appearance in 2006, followed by a disappointing 16th place finish in Vancouver when she was reigning world champion.
“I have had devastating Olympics,” Hamlin said. “I’ve had awesome Olympics with Sochi and this one will definitely be a high point because of flag bearer, not so much from the race. But it’s my third top-six of this season, so I guess I can’t be too disappointed.”
While many people in the United States were introduced to Hamlin as flag bearer, she has been the standard-bearer for her sport in this country.
“She’s been a game changer for USA Luge,” said Britcher. “To me personally, she’s been a huge inspiration. Being there in Sochi when she won that bronze medal, it was sort of the deciding factor in my career. I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep sliding. It seemed kind of hopeless. And that was the moment of, ‘Hey, this is possible. We can do this. We can compete with the best.’ And that sort of gave me the drive to succeed over the past four years.
"So I really just hope we can continue the legacy she’s left into the next four and keep getting on that podium.”
Britcher, who had the fastest single run time of any competitor, earned the right to be the female representative in the luge team relay for the U.S.
The torch has passed.
Hamlin said she would like to be remembered as “maybe someone who broke barriers down, who kind of made that breakthrough to let the floodgates (open).”
Before competition began, she said, “A new life waiting in the wings is kind of fun.” That includes getting married on July 28. Her fiancé was with her in PyeongChang.
Does she have a job lined up? “Heck no,” Hamlin said. “I’m going to have fun for a little while. If anyone’s hiring, give me a call.”
She said she’d like to take advantage of connections in the Olympic world “while I’m still slightly relevant as an athlete.”
Her Olympic career may be over, but Hamlin will still be a part of luge.
She may even get back on a sled. “I’m getting ready,” she said, “for the masters races.”