Erin Hamlin wasn't much of a daredevil when she was a child—for years she didn't even like roller coasters. But last week this former "wimp" made history when she won a bronze medal by racing up to 90 miles per hour down an icy track on a slab of fiberglass, making her the first American to medal in singles luge.
We caught up with the 27-year-old to find out how she keeps her body super strong yet lean, what made her third Olympic try a charm (including the first new sled in 20 years from Dow), and how she got into the crazy sport in the first place.
Shape: Luging is an odd sport. How did you get into it?
Erin Hamlin (EH): The summer I was 12 years old, my dad worked for one of the sponsors of the U.S. Luge Slider Search program, which is hosted by the U.S. Luge Association. They teach 9- to 13-year-olds about luging, and then they slide down a small hill. I tried out. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it was something different and unique. I was then invited to the next step to go to Lake Placid and actually slide down the track and learn a lot more about it. They dangled the whole Olympic thing in front of me, and I was hooked.
Shape: Did you pick it up right away and fall in love with it?
EH: To be honest, I was kind of a baby when I was little. Like kind of a wimp. And when I started luging, I wasn't great at it. I was just really focused and determined to get good at it. It was a challenge for me, and that pushed me to try to be the best. I'm super competitive, so it was a good outlet.
Shape: How do you stay motivated to work out and train hard?
EH: Skipping a workout is not an option for me. I get up in the morning and just do it. I only have so long before my next competition to prepare. The one workout I give up could be the one that keeps me from winning, and it would make all the other work I'm doing pointless. I am 100-percent dedicated. I think every athlete has the curse that they think they're never doing enough and always wanting to do more to make themselves the best. I'm no different.
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Shape: What does a week of workouts and recovery look like for you?
EH: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I'm in the weight room first thing in the morning for at least three hours. Eating is a big part of my training too. We have to be heavy, so we have to put on a lot of lean muscle mass. Putting only good calories in my body all the time is a hassle but part of it. Generally the little bit of time between my lifts and lunch is when I do recovery; I'll take a cold bath or something. Then I do some sport-specific training in the afternoon at the indoor start ramp. At the end of the day, if I need to do anything else recovery-wise, I'll ice or get a massage. On the days between lifting, I'll do a core workout, agility training, or actual wheel training on the track in the summertime.
Shape: Which muscles are most important for luge?
EH: Upper body and core. We do a lot of Olympic lifting—quick, explosive power movements like power cleans and snatches—since those are best at mimicking the movement we do at the luge start.
Shape: How did you feel going into the competition?
EH: The past few years have been pretty up and down for me, but because of that, accompanied with the fact that it's my third Olympics, I came in with the mindset that I was going to enjoy myself, take it all in, and not put too much pressure on myself. Going into the race, I felt like there was nothing else I could do to do be more prepared.
Shape: What are you most looking forward to once you get home?
EH: Being with my friends and family and sharing the excitement with them. They've been such a great support system, not only my friends and family, but also the region where I'm from. I've been to two other Olympics, but this time I'm bringing home a medal.