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American luger on icy brink of history

SOCHI, Russia — Standing on the cusp of history, U.S. luger Erin Hamlin quickly realized her biggest challenge during these Olympics would be to stay busy and focused Monday night.

After finishing the first day of competition, she planned to hang out back at the athletes village, perhaps watch a tape of her two earlier runs and maybe prep her sled for Tuesday's finals.

But, most of all, she intended to remain calm. No need to obsess over the fact that she slid into third place in the women's competition Monday and now has chance to become the first American to win an Olympic medal in a singles luge event.

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"I've been doing well all week, so I'm not going to do any crazy stuff to do less well," she said.

Ranked sixth in the world, Hamlin sits 0.82 seconds behind reigning world champion Natalie Geisenberger of Germany. Tatjana Huefner of Germany, who won gold in Vancouver, is second.

Hamlin has two more runs Tuesday in which to protect her podium position or possibly move up a spot.

"I'll take it," Hamlin said, laughing.

Despite becoming the first U.S. luger to finish in the top three after the first day of Olympic competition, Hamlin still found fault with her performance. She bobbled at the start and bumped a couple of turns too soon, which killed some momentum.

"I feel good and relaxed, but I definitely have things to clean up," she said.

The U.S. women celebrated Hamlin's performance Monday as a team victory, in part because they all know what a podium finish would mean for their program. In addition to providing significant bragging rights heading into next year's World Cup, it would stop the questions about the dearth of Olympic luge medals.

"It would be unfreaking believable if Erin medaled," teammate Kate Hansen said. "It would really give U.S. luge a boost of confidence."

Hansen, of La Canada, is in 10th place going into the final two runs Tuesday. American teammate Summer Britcher — at 19, the third-youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team — is 15th.

"I was just trying to have fun," said Britcher, who will turn 20 next month. "That's something that I really struggle with. I take everything too seriously sometimes. I was just up there [at the start gate] reminding myself that I do this because I enjoy it and to have a good time. And I did."

sstclair@tribune.com

Twitter: @stacystclair

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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