KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Finally, Olympic gold for Germany's Natalie Geisenberger.
Finally, Olympic anything for Erin
Hamlin and the United States.
And Hamlin finished third, grabbing
the first medal for any American singles luge
athlete at the Olympics, 50 years after luge
first appeared at the games. So in the sport's golden anniversary as part of
the Olympics, Hamlin came up with bronze, a feat that will surely go down as
perhaps the greatest moment in USA Luge
Hamlin, a native of Remsen, N.Y., finally put an end to that.
Hamlin finished 0.236 seconds behind Huefner in the race for silver, but held off Canada's Alex Gough by 0.433 seconds for the final spot on the flower stand. It was the fifth Olympic medal for USA Luge, the first four - two silvers and two bronzes - coming in doubles races.
When Hamlin crossed the line, that
medal finally clinched, she threw her arms skyward, then covered her face
briefly with her hands. U.S. coach Mark Grimmette - a doubles medalist for the
Americans - raced over to offer congratulations, and men's slider Chris Mazdzer
reached down from the bleachers to hand Hamlin the U.S. flag.
Maybe it was fitting that Geisenberger, Huefner and Hamlin were the three who found their way to the top. Every single time since 2007, in the year's final race - either the world championships or the Olympics - one of those three women were crowned champion. And this marked the first time in Olympic women's luge history that three world champions stood side by side on the medal podium.
But there's no doubt which one stands tallest these days, both literally and figuratively.
Geisenberger turned 26 last week, already was a world champion and World Cup champion, and now has the Olympic title after taking the bronze in Vancouver four years ago. Much like Felix Loch, the men's two-time Olympic champion and fellow protege of all-time great Georg Hackl, her run of dominance might just be getting started.
How dominant was Geisenberger at the Sochi Olympics? Consider: The victory margins posted by the last four Olympic women's winners, combined, was 0.949 seconds. Geisenberger's lead after three runs this time was 1.049 seconds. And she didn't take her foot off the gas for the final run, either.
In other words, there was never a
Geisenberger dominated the World Cup
circuit this year with seven wins in eight starts, came to Sochi brimming with
confidence, then simply made no mistakes. Geisenberger's lead was just over
three-quarters of a second after Monday's first two heats, and she had
confessed in the days leading up to the race that she was concerned about how
she would handle sleeping with the lead.
All she did in the opening run of the third heat was set a track record, a trip that took 49.765 seconds and took away any chance - there wasn't much to begin with - that she would be getting caught.
Gold was Germany's again, the fifth straight time that's happened and the 10th time in 14 Olympics overall. It also was the ninth time that German women, either unified or separated in the days the country was divided into east and west, won gold and silver.
For them, Olympic hardware is a constant.
And for the U.S., it's no longer out of reach.