Erin Hamlin

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Erin Hamlin makes fourth Olympics on historic day for U.S. luge

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Erin Hamlin is set to become the second U.S. female luger to compete in four Olympics, which will be the last competition of her career in PyeongChang in February.

The 2014 Olympic bronze medalist (first Olympic medal for a U.S. singles slider) clinched her spot with a fourth-place finish in a World Cup event in Winterberg, Germany, on Sunday.

“Every Olympic year is a little bit more added stress,” Hamlin said. “It’s more of a relief than when I was younger and I made it unexpectedly.”

She will likely be joined on the U.S. Olympic team by Sochi teammate Summer Britcher and Emily Sweeney.

Britcher made her first World Cup podium on a European track with a third-place finish in Winterberg on Sunday.

Later Sunday, Sweeney and Britcher went one-two in the sprint race (a non-Olympic event) in Winterberg.

It marked Sweeney’s first World Cup win and the first time ever that the U.S. went one-two in a World Cup singles race in Europe.

The full U.S. Olympic luge team will be named in three weeks.

Hamlin’s place on the team was never in doubt.

She won gold and silver medals in the individual events at worlds last winter, when she said she hoped to make the PyeongChang Olympics the final competition of her decorated career.

“I can now officially, officially say that I’m done, done,” Hamlin said Sunday, repeating for emphasis. “Now that I’m qualified I can say that I’m out [after PyeongChang].”

She was also fourth in the World Cup standings for a second straight season, extending her streak to four straight years as the top American luger.

Hamlin, 31, was 12th and 16th at her first two Olympics in 2006 and 2010, while also winning the 2009 World Championship.

Cammy Myler was the first U.S. woman to compete in four Olympics in luge — in 1988, 1992, 1994 and 1998.

The Olympic favorites are Germans Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Huefner, the last two gold medalists.

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MORE: Full U.S. Olympic roster

Erin Hamlin nears end of historic U.S. luge career

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Erin Hamlin is looking forward to normalcy. She is getting married next summer in her hometown. She is thinking about career moves. She is trying to figure out the rest of her life.

It is probably her last luge season. It is definitely her last Olympic season.

As such, it would be easy to fall into the trap of saying that winning a gold medal at PyeongChang in February would be the only thing that makes this season a success.

It’s important, sure, but Hamlin is entering her 13th year of World Cup racing with a much broader view and insisting that she’s going to enjoy whatever time she has left on her sled.

“I’m not going to hyperfocus myself on one result or bust,” Hamlin said. “Very likely, it’s going to be my last time in a lot of places, sliding on a lot of tracks. So I think more so, it’s going to be a lot of soaking it all in.”

That process starts Saturday, when the World Cup season opens in Igls, Austria.

Hamlin, who turns 31 on Sunday, is coming off the finest year of her career — she won a gold medal and two silvers at the world championships for the biggest haul ever by an American luger, got two World Cup wins and finished fourth in world rankings.

She might be going out, and there’s a chance she can go out on top.

“We’re working hard to convince her to stay,” longtime U.S. teammate Emily Sweeney said.

Sweeney knows that’s probably futile.

Sliders always tend to cycle out after an Olympics, no matter if it’s bobsled, skeleton or luge, and the Americans will see plenty of veterans take their last rides this winter.

A few U.S. sliders already retired this fall, in part because they weren’t going to have a shot at an Olympic berth.

For her part, Hamlin hasn’t officially said this is the end.

“There’s never really as concrete of a plan as you hope there would be, because you never know what can happen,” Hamlin said. “But at the moment, what I’m excited to do is see what other opportunities are there and what other adventures await.”

Hamlin has been in the world’s top 10 in each of the past 11 seasons — the second-longest current streak of any woman in luge, one year behind German legend Tatjana Huefner.

She won a World Cup each of the past three years, took the world title in sprint last winter and became the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist in 2014 with a bronze.

A lesson learned that season: Not expecting much can work wonders. That’s one of the reasons why PyeongChang isn’t taking up all the bandwidth in her brain.

“That’s the nature of winter sports in a Winter Olympic year, there being so much focus on the Games,” Hamlin said. “How I went into the last Olympics taught me a lot. I had no expectation of walking away from the last Olympics with a medal. At this point, goal No. 1 is to make the team and beyond that, I know if I slide as I’m capable of I can be pretty fast and I can do well.”

The schedule this season is hectic.

This weekend’s stop in Austria starts a run of five races in five weekends, with the next two in Germany followed by another in Calgary, Alberta, and then on home ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 15-16.

When that Lake Placid World Cup is over, the U.S. Olympic team will be named.

So when Hamlin needs an escape from all that, the wedding is there to bring her back to reality.

It will be at her parents’ home in July. It will, without question, be the social event of the season in Remsen, N.Y., where the one-time high school soccer player has annually left her tiny hometown brimming with pride.

“Pretty exciting,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely adding a whole new aspect to an Olympic year, planning a wedding, but it’s cool. It gives me a good distraction when I need to think about something other than sliding.”

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MORE: U.S. luge head coach steps down due to Parkinson’s

Wolfgang Kindl wins luge world championship, Erin Hamlin claims another medal

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IGLS, Austria — Austrian luger Wolfgang Kindl won the men’s singles race for his second gold medal at his home world championships Sunday, while Germany continued its dominance in the team relay.

Two days after taking gold in the sprint event, Kindl set a track record of 49.823 seconds in Sunday’s opening run and extended his lead by posting the fastest second-run time on the 1976 Olympic track.

Kindl finished in 1 minute, 39.799 seconds to beat Roman Repilov of Russia by 0.062, while Dominik Fischnaller of Italy finished 0.120 behind to take the bronze medal. Olympic champion Felix Loch of Germany, who was the defending champion, was 0.257 off the lead in sixth.

After winning bronze in the past two seasons, Kindl became the first men’s world champion from Austria since Markus Prock won in Altenberg in 1996.

Germany won the team relay and remained unbeaten in the discipline since it was first held at the 2008 world championships.

Germany trailed the United States after Tatjana Huefner and Johannes Ludwig had completed their runs, but Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken made up the deficit in the concluding doubles run.

Erin Hamlin, Tucker West and doubles team Matt Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman finished 0.190 seconds behind to take silver, the first American podium result in the discipline. Russia was 0.510 behind in third.

NBCSN will air world championships coverage Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

MORE: Erin Hamlin wins second World Luge Championships medal in two days