LILLEHAMMER, Norway – The last time Erin Hamlin was in a luge race, she was in the Sochi team relay. That was two days after capping the first Olympic singles medal in United States history.
At the end of a week-long training camp Saturday in Lillehammer, Hamlin, unlike her medal-winning effort in February, came from behind to overtake German Julia Orlamuender and collected the gold medal in the pre-season Lillehammer Cup.
“Everything came together really well. I just aimed to be consistent and comfortable,” said the Remsen, N.Y. racer. “The runs weren’t ideal, considering I had really good training most of the time. In the first run my lines at the top of the track were a little bit off, which costs a lot here. Second run was a lot better, but I had to work a little bit harder for the clean run than I would have liked.”
The 2014 Olympic bronze medalist found speed at the bottom of the 1994 Olympic track, which will host a World Cup event this winter and the 2016 Youth Olympic Games. Hamlin posted times of 48.674 and 48.969 seconds for a combined 1 minute, 37.643 seconds.
Julia Clukey, 2010 Olympian, 2013 World Cup silver medalist in Lake Placid and seven time winner of the team’s annual start competition, was third at the halfway mark of the race. She was a force in both legs and trailed Hamlin by just 0.01 of a second at the break. But the Augusta, Maine competitor lost time at the end of the final run and dropped to fourth overall, nearly 0.4 of a second behind her teammate.
Orlamuender took the opening run lead by 0.17 of a second over Hamlin, before settling for the silver medal in 1:37.737. Andrea Voetter, of Italy, finished third, 0.23 of a second from the American.
Tucker West, 2014 Olympian from Ridgefield, Conn., was sixth in a field dominated by rising Italian star Dominick Fischnaller. He, too, wrote the comeback story in the second run, as Fischnaller, sixth in Sochi, overtook Kristaps Maurins of Latvia, claiming victory by just 0.001 of a second.
West, the youngest male to ever make the U.S. Olympic Luge Team, totaled 1:40.494. He was sixth best in both heats.
“The race today was a great confidence boost for the upcoming season,” said West, now a freshman at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. “Although my runs weren't as clean as I would hope them to be in a race, I showed myself that there is some promising potential for speed, that hopefully I'll be able to tap into within the coming year.
“I was a little nervous about the new sled setup, however, after a few minor tweaks I feel extremely confident in what I am riding, and can't wait to fine tune it more and more as the season progresses.”
Two-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake, N.Y., stood eighth after the first run, and was en route to winning the final leg. But difficulties in curves eight through 10, according to Head Coach Miro Zayonc, dropped him to 16th place overall.
Fischnaller, a Sochi Olympian, clocked two runs in 1:40.118, with Maurins next in 1:40.119. Kevin Fischnaller, also of Italy, took third in 1:40.198.
Latvian brothers and Olympic medalists Andris and Juris Sics, Olympic bronze medalists in 2010 and 2014, were victorious in doubles, putting down two runs that totaled 1:36.837. They were ahead of Peter Penz and Georg Fischler, of Austria, by 0.15 of a second. Italy placed third and fourth, led by the ageless team of Christian Oberstolz and Patrick Gruber.
The new U.S. duo of Matt Mortensen, of Huntington Station, N.Y. and Jayson Terdiman, of Berwick, Pa., took seventh in 1:37.856. Both slid in Sochi with different sled mates and had just 17 runs together prior to this week. They competed with their sled duct taped for preservation, affecting their aerodynamics properties.
Hamlin and most of her teammates will be off the ice for the next week as Lake Placid prepares to open its track, weather permitting, on Oct. 18. Mazdzer will go on for additional training in Sigulda, Latvia this week. The venue will host the 2015 World Championships.
Hamlin, the three-time Olympian and 2009 World Champion, has amassed approximately 40 runs thus far, and will have much more training to start the season, given its late November opening.
“Even with the late start to the World Cup season this year, having a lot of time on the sled early is pretty crucial,” she continued. “When you’re in a sport that can only be done half of the year, you always need to take full advantage when there’s ice.”
Complete Lillehammer Cup results.