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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.”

U.S. Olympic luge team finalized with nail-biting result

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Tucker West left no doubt, clinching his second U.S. Olympic luge berth with a World Cup podium Friday. Two of his countrymen, meanwhile, are going to PyeongChang by a fraction of a second.

The doubles team of Justin Krewson and Andrew Sherk made the Olympics by six hundredths of a second in Lake Placid, N.Y. That meant Jake Hyrns and Anthony Espinoza missed the Olympic team by six hundredths of a second.

The race for the last doubles spot was the most exciting as the U.S. luge team was finalized at the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic site in the last 24 hours.

Krewson and Sherk, first-time Olympians, are part of this full U.S. luge team for PyeongChang:

Erin Hamlin (qualified last month)
Summer Britcher
Emily Sweeney
Tucker West
Chris Mazdzer
Taylor Morris
Matt Mortensen/Jayson Terdiman
Justin Krewson
/Andrew Sherk

The full list of U.S. athletes qualified for PyeongChang across all sports is here.

All of those 10 lugers competed in Sochi save Sweeney, Morris and Krewson and Sherk.

Krewson, 21, and Sherk, 25, were essentially in a race-off Friday with Hyrns and Espinoza, both 24, for the second and final doubles berth behind Mortensen and Terdiman.

Hyrns and Espinoza had the edge by .012 after the first of two runs but slowed negligibly in the second run.

Krewson and Sherk sped up in the second run to steal the Olympic berth with a sixth-place finish overall, matching their best result since teaming in 2015 (Sherk previously slid with Hyrns).

Mortensen and Terdiman were fifth in Friday’s race won by Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, the Germans who captured the last seven World Cup doubles races dating to last season (non-sprint). Full results are here.

Mortensen and Terdiman, who raced in Sochi with different partners, made three World Cup podiums last season and finished third in the season standings.

A U.S. doubles team hasn’t won a World Cup race in 12 years or an Olympic medal since 2002.

Later Friday, West went into the last Olympic qualifying race knowing his PyeongChang berth was nearly sewn up. It would have taken an incredible finish from two other Americans to bump him off the Olympic team.

No matter, West set the track record in his first run and ended up third overall (losing his track record to Russian winner Roman Repilov in the second run).

But no U.S. man has made a World Cup podium on a non-North American track since February 2016.

The World Cup stopped at the PyeongChang Olympic venue last February, where the top American was Mazdzer in 12th. That did not boost hopes for the first U.S. Olympic men’s singles luge medal this February.

Morris, who missed the 2014 Olympic team by one spot, made the Olympics with a fifth-place finish Friday. Mazdzer was eighth.

The women’s team has been the U.S.’ strongest in recent seasons and heads to PyeongChang with multiple medal hopes.

It is led by Hamlin, the Sochi bronze medalist who was the first luger to make the Olympic team last month. Britcher and Sweeney each clinched berths before the final qualifying race Saturday.

Britcher went to Sochi as a surprise U.S. Olympian — youngest on the women’s luge team at age 19 — on her first season on the World Cup circuit.

Britcher finished 15th in Sochi, third out of three U.S. women, after upsetting 2010 Olympian Julia Clukey for the last spot on the team.

Since, she has won three World Cups and made the podium in four others. Britcher at one point led the World Cup standings early in the 2015-16 season.

Britcher’s consistency this season helped her qualify for the Olympics without having to sweat it out in Lake Placid like the doubles teams and some of the men.

Ditto for Sweeney, who won a World Cup sprint race (a non-Olympic event) in Winterberg last month.

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

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MORE: Indian luger set for 6th (and likely last) Olympics

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