LAKE PLACID — Following a rocky showing in the 2010-11 luge campaign that featured inconsistent results, Remsen native Erin Hamlin wanted to get back to the consistent level that brought her a career-best fourth place result in the 2009-10 World Cup standings.
The 25-year-old Hamlin worked diligently during the offseason to correct the physical and mental mistakes that plagued her last season. The offseason training brought in the results she was looking for, as she finished in the top 10 in six of the nine World Cup races. She also went on to capture a bronze medal in Latvia and placed sixth in the final standings. Hamlin said she was a little disappointed with how a couple of races ended but she was satisfied with the season overall. The one thing though that she had to remind herself was that she belonged on the podium with the best of them.
"I stayed pretty consistent and most races were top 10 so I’ll take that," she said. "I corrected some things with my sled that hindered me a bit last year. I also really just tried to relax and enjoy everything. I had to keep it in my mind that I belong up there with the top women and that helped keep my confidence up after the disappointing season last year."
She also mentioned that the new USA Luge staff that was brought together last season has also shown potential.
"There were definitely a few areas where things were better," she said. "To bridge that gap a little, one of the coaches that used to be with us was brought on again for a few weeks, which was a huge help. But there is still a long way to go."
Surprising results, both good and not so great, followed Hamlin throughout the season. The one race, though, that surprised Hamlin the most was, in fact, the one in which she picked up her only medal of the season in Sigulda, Latvia.
"Sigulda has never been high on the list of places I enjoy, and I have struggled there in the past," she said. "For some reason, things just clicked a lot better than past years, and I actually enjoyed sliding there more than ever. I fixed some of the tough spots and stayed consistent which was the major factor. The only thing I would have changed were my starts, they were far back, even for me so having them faster would help my cause," she added.
If there was a race that Hamlin could have back and do over, it would be at Altenberg, Germany, the site of the 43rd International Luge Federation World Championships, where she finished 12th.
"I think I was the most disappointed I have ever been after that race," said the 2009 world champion. "I had the potential to do really well, training was awesome, and I was going fast. I felt comfortable on a track that is tough to be comfortable on, and I think after having more runs than normal before a race, I was a little too relaxed for the race and made stupid mistakes. That’s definitely one I wish I could re-do."
In the end of the season, Hamlin tallied 421 points for the sixth place World Cup finish as German luger Tatjana Huefner claimed a record fifth straight championship with 761 points. Hamlin said it’s no surprise to her that Huefner claimed the gold again because Germany is always competing for the top spot on the podium every race.
"She was very solid pretty much all year and always wicked fast. She is a very talented driver," she said. "There seemed to be a lot of dissension within the German team so sometimes it felt like the rest of us are all just along for the ride, and they are always competing for the win. But then something happens, someone else wins, Germans don’t sweep and it’s so motivating."
The Remsen native and Lake Placid resident did finish the season with a victory in the Norton National Championships for the fifth straight year on her home course.
Aside from singles competition, she also participated in a few relay races for Team USA and captured a silver medal in Winterberg, Germany along the way.
"It is always a lot of fun because most of the time it’s all individual," she said. "I really enjoy the team camaraderie and working together for something. It’s also a lot more pressure because there are other people counting on your success."
Now that the luge season has come to a close, Hamlin plans on taking it easy at home this spring before getting back at it with training in Lake Placid before summer begins. She stressed that the main thing she will focus the most on in her training will be her starts, which have hurt Hamlin’s time in her runs.
"I say it every year, so I’m sure people are wondering why I don’t just fix it already, but my less than ideal start times are holding me back quite a bit," she said. "It’s something I’ve always struggled with. I have ambitious goals for this offseason, so fingers crossed I can bring a little more time and speed at the top."