LAKE PLACID - As a world-class athlete and a three-time Olympian, Erin Hamlin is no stranger to the fast-paced life of crossing the ocean and jumping from one continent to another.
But a little more than a month ago, the USA Luge Team veteran saw her life find a whole new gear after she won a historic medal in women's singles at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
When Hamlin captured the bronze on Feb. 11 to become the first American to ever win an Olympic medal in singles luge, the 27-year-old from Remsen saw her life change in a big way.
Erin Hamlin receives a framed photo of her Olympic medals ceremony from USA Luge CEO Jim Leahy during a reception held Saturday to honor the slider from Remsen. Hamlin’s bronze medal was the first-ever for an American in singles luge.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
"It's busy. It's very busy," Hamlin said. "After winning the bronze, my life has gone from a normal pace to mach-30. It's hectic, but it's great."
Growing up in a town of less than 2,000 residents, Hamlin was already well-known by the locals after she started competing internationally years ago. In 2009, she turned into a household name among those familiar with the sport of luge when she won a gold medal at the World Championships. And now with an Olympic bronze, Hamlin has seen her popularity grow from coast to coast.
The fanfare started immediately upon Hamlin's return to the United States following the Olympics. With thousands lined up along the back roads of upstate New York, she was escorted by police and fire companies in a parade that stretched all the way from the Syracuse airport to her hometown.
"The reception I got at home was amazing, but it went beyond that," Hamlin said. "The whole central New York area, people I don't even know are now saying hello. Even when I was in California, complete strangers came up to me and said 'great job.'"
After winning bronze, Hamlin has been a hot commodity on national news shows, she's made classroom visits to chat with young students and even made an appearance at an Academy Awards viewing party in Hollywood where she posed with her medal alongside stars including actor and director Ben Affleck.
"Going to the Oscars party was pretty sweet," Hamlin said. "Being from a small town, I was out of my element among all those stars. I got all glammed up, and that was fun."
Hamlin made two more appearances this past weekend in Lake Placid. On Saturday, she was the guest of honor at a reception at the USA Luge headquarters. Then on Sunday evening, she joined fellow Sochi Olympians, including luge teammates, bobsled bronze medalists Steve Holcomb and Steve Langton and alpine silver-medal winner Andrew Weibrecht, for a parade down Main Street. And next month, she'll be in Washington D.C., joining a host of Sochi Olympians for a visit to the White House.
Now that the season is over, Hamlin also hopes to get back into the groove of being a student. She's taking classes online with DeVry University with her studies concentrated in the field of sustainability management.
"Lately, it's been tough keeping up with homework," Hamlin admitted.
Hamlin said her singles medal was an unexpected one, and attributed some of her success in Sochi to a laid-back attitude heading into the games.
"I went into the race so relaxed and so carefree," she said. "It was like a revelation. I kind of asked myself, 'Why haven't I felt this way before? I just went in there wanting to have fun racing. I've been able to put two good runs together every now and then in World Cup, and by being relaxed, I was able to string together four great runs at the Olympics. Doing that was so much fun."
Obviously, winning the bronze marks a dream come true for Hamlin, but the achievement is also a big deal for the sport in the U.S.
"Luge isn't that well-known in the United States, so this was really great for our program," Hamlin said. "With my success, and with (USA Luge teammate) Kate Hansen's, that was really great for our program. I think we helped get our sport noticed a little more."
After what could be considered a whirlwind post-Olympic tour, Hamlin is now looking forward to some relaxation, which includes a ski trip to Utah where her brother Ryan resides.
"I'm not going to be on a structured training program for a while," she said. "I'll be doing a few things, but right now, I'm looking forward to some down time. I'll probably kick it back into gear at the beginning of the summer."