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Erin Hamlin’s medal was ‘big boost’ for Team USA luge

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Tucker West admits that his teammates were “shocked” when fellow U.S. luger Erin Hamlin claimed the bronze medal at the 2014 Olympics.

Understandable, considering Hamlin failed to make a podium in either of the two World Cup seasons leading up to the Sochi Games. Not to mention that no U.S. athlete had ever won an Olympic singles luge medal in the 50 years since the sport made its Olympic debut.

“It gave the team a morale boost,” West said. “It showed that our equipment is fast and can compete with the rest of the world.”

Hamlin immediately recognized the significance of her achievement. When she finished her final run, she ran over to the stands and bowed in front of the loud contingent of U.S. fans.

NBCOlympics.com: Hamlin on what it means to be U.S. flag bearer (video)

“Hopefully, it means [the sport] gets a little more attention and we get some funding and spread the numbers and get a lot more kids involved going forward,” Hamlin said at the time. “And we just get stronger.”

Hamlin’s wish came true. Gordy Sheer, a 1998 Olympic doubles silver medalist and USA Luge’s Marketing Director, said that the organization’s athlete recruitment statistics “skyrocketed” in 2014.

“It was a big, big boost for us,” Sheer said.

The U.S. has achieved unprecedented success on the international circuit since then.

In December 2014, Tucker West became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup race since 1997. It started a streak of U.S. men winning multiple World Cup races in each of the three seasons since the 2014 Olympics.

Hamlin won three medals at the 2017 World Championships, the most by a U.S. luger at Worlds in a single year. She was one of three U.S. women to finish in the top-10 of the 2016-2017 World Cup standings.

NBCOlympics.com: Watch Hamlin’s run for bronze in 2014

“Erin’s medal really sparked the rest of our success since then,” West said. “It’s snowballed from there.”

Hamlin will be 31 during the PyeongChang Winter Games, which she has said will be the final competition of her career. She is a medal threat after finishing second at the 2017 World Championships.

“She is a great racer, especially in stressful situations,” West said. “She seems to do well in all of the big races.”

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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