Luger Erin Hamlin chosen as US flag-bearer for Opening Ceremonies
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea - The U.S. Olympic team has selected luger Erin Hamlin as its flag-bearer for Friday's Opening Ceremonies. Four years ago, she wasn't even certain she'd still be on the sled competing at these Olympics, much less tasked with leading the entire United States' contingent into the Opening Ceremonies.
"It's definitely a surprise, definitely a shock," she said. "I was not expecting it at all."
Hamlin, 31, will be the fourth luger to serve as flag-bearer for the United States, and the first since Mark Grimmette at the 2010 Olympics.
"The nerves will be flying, for sure," said Hamlin, who will be competing in her fourth Winter Games. "I slide - that's what I do. Put me at the top of a track, [and] that's my happy place. Walking out in front of a lot of people with even more watching from home, not tripping over my own feet or dropping the flag is going to be way more nerve-wracking."
Hamlin won the world title in 2009 and felt her career was peaking at the Vancouver Games. After a disappointing 16th-place finish there and a few rough seasons, she thought the 2014 Games in Sochi might be her last. Instead, she surprised many - including herself - by winning a bronze medal, becoming the first American luger to ever reach the Olympic podium. That made sticking around an easier decision.
"To do that and really have that flip everything upside down, I decided to continue on the next four years," Hamlin said of the Sochi medal. "I took a different approach to competing and the last four years have been some of my most successful. It's been an interesting path that I didn't expect to happen."
Hamlin took silver at last year's world championships and enters these Olympics ranked No. 7 in the world. The women's luge competition begins Feb. 12.
Rick Maese is a sports features writer for The Washington Post.