ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Erin Hamlin was already fast-forwarding to Sochi four years ago before her luge had stopped sliding at Whistler.
Her medal hopes at the Vancouver Olympics disappeared almost immediately after a huge mistake in her first run but after the tears had dried the 2009 world champion vowed to make amends.
On Tuesday at the Sanki Sliding Centre she did just that, becoming the first American to win an Olympic luge singles medal when she slid to the bronze.
“It was definitely a big goal of mine,” Hamlin, who was 16th in Vancouver after a costly first-run mistake, told reporters.
“After Whistler I knew that was not how I wanted my Olympic legacy to end, I guess you could say, so it was super-motivating. After that, even before the race was over and I knew I was well back, I thought ‘right in four years I’m coming back strong because that’s not how I wanted it to’”
Hamlin finished behind runaway winner Natalie Geisenberger and fellow German Tatjana Huefner and considering German dominance of the Olympic women’s luge events she could be excused for treating third as if it were a victory.
“It’s surreal, I had four great runs,” she said. “I came here with no expectations and this is beyond what I imagined.
“When I went into that third-from-last-curve I thought to myself ‘I think I just did it.’
“It’s funny when I first came to this track it took me a long time to get it. I was thinking ‘Oh my Gosh’, but after training I got into the rhythm and it’s a lot of fun.
Hamlin, 27, was the first non-German to win the women’s world title for 12 years in 2009 and hopes had been high in Vancouver.
But a lowered starting position after the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training run threw Hamlin’s routine into chaos and she never challenged.
This season she had not been on a singles podium in the World Cup but she showed nerves of steel to hold off Canada’s Alex Gough and nail her final run to secure a medal.
While definitely sparking a party back home in Remsen in upstate New York, Hamlin hoped her bronze would also raise the profile of a sport that is far from the American sporting mainstream and is usually forgotten outside of Olympics.
“When I won the worlds I was the first American woman to do that, so to be able to do this as well I feel like hopefully I’m paving the way for American female lugers.
“I’m so stoked, the wait was worth it, absolutely.”
Hamlin was cheered on by her mum and dad and brothers Ryan and Sean who watched their sister dressed in onesies.
“It’s funny they started out with body paint in Turin as they did in Whistler but here they’ve got onesies, they’ve learned bundles even though this is warmest Winter Games yet!
“They timed that badly, but they were pumped.”
The United States had previously had Olympic luge success in men’s doubles with a silver and bronze in both Nagano in 1998 and Salt Lake City in 2002.
Editing by Ed Osmond