By Nicole A. Elliott Staff writer
REMSEN — Central New York has a new hometown hero.
Remsen native Erin Hamlin put her small community of less than 2,000 on the world map Tuesday when she made global history as the first U.S. luger to clinch a medal in the singles event at the Sochi Winter Games in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. She takes home the bronze.
Hamlin’s last big win was at the 2009 World Championships. She went to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics a medal favorite, but the tragic death of the Republic of Georgia’s Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training accident forced officials to lower the start. Hamlin struggled with the new start and was out of medal contention.
Hamlin’s family and closest friends watched as she made her bronze medal run Tuesday. But back home, support from
neighbors, friends and former teachers spoke tremendous volumes. Officials at Remsen Central School said they were all "glued to a television or computer monitor" for the event. And Tuesday evening, people took to the streets for a big parade in her honor. Hamlin has already appeared on national television interviews and her name has been sprawled across headlines of major newspapers across the country.
"It’s very exciting for all of us here. We’ve been celebrating Erin’s victory, but we were also celebrating all the way with her, so Monday and Tuesday we were all glued to the streaming video of the events in one way or another," said Remsen Central School Superintendent William T. Crankshaw. All the school buildings have worked on projects, from signs to Walls of Fame, in support of Hamlin’s Olympic venture.
"There’s a good atmosphere here for support of Erin — it has raised everyone’s spirit," Crankshaw said. "Everyone feels Remsen has been put on the map and the children have learned about her dedication and perseverance and we’re trying to use that as learning lessons at our school. I’m not sure it’s hit us all yet, but we watched her on the Today Show this morning and it’s just exciting to see a homegrown product of our region in the spotlight."
Former teachers of Erin’s have also been beaming with pride over her success.
"I think everyone is feeling a lot of pride to think they had any kind of part in Erin’s life at this point is very gratifying," Crankshaw said. "We’re all wearing ‘Go Erin’ buttons and have signs. Her success had really made an impression on the students here. Students were in tears yesterday at the elementary level" when they watched her win, "so even the smallest child is getting it. They really understand the magnitude of her success."
At the Soda Fountain, Remsen’s popular 50s style diner on Main Street, customers will now see a menu change. A sundae that was named for Erin in 2009 has been officially re-named.
"I had to go to the printer yesterday to print up some new menus," Soda Fountain Co-owner Steve Boucher said. "We named it World Champion Erin Hamlin Sundae back in 2009, now it’s Olympic Medalist Erin Hamlin Sundae."
Erin designed the confection herself, which is comprised of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter, Oreos and peanut butter cups, topped with whip cream and a cherry.
"In 2009 we had called Lake Placid during the World Championships and asked her brother what the sundae was that she ordered here all the time," Boucher said. "Then we asked her mom and dad if they minded we name the sundae after Erin, and they thought she would be honored and that it would be a lot of fun."
As for the spirit of an entire community, Boucher and his staff are definitely among the local residents who are celebrating Hamlin’s big history-making win.
"The whole town is absolutely thrilled and proud," Boucher said. "That girl worked so hard and she’s such a good person, no one deserves this more than her. Her younger brother used to work with us and we’re good friends with her mom and dad, uncle and aunt — we’re a very close community and everyone knows the Hamlins in one way or another. And we’re all happy for them."
Between 200 and 300 people with banners and signs, some even in fire trucks, were in the streets Tuesday evening for a big parade to honor Hamlin’s bronze. Village officials expect another celebration will be planned for Hamlin’s homecoming.
Even the county executive issued a statement on behalf of all Oneida County residents.
"I and all of Oneida County would like to congratulate new Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin of Remsen today," said County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. in a statement. "Her unshakable determination and dedication has led to this unbelievable accomplishment. Erin is the first American to medal at the Olympics in the Individual Luge event. As a community we all stand to give her the ovation she has earned. Congratulations again Erin, you have made our entire community and indeed the entire nation proud."
Hamlin will race again in the team relay event on Thursday.