Erin Hamlin always dreamed of skidding into the finish area, stepping off her luge and bathing in Olympic glory. A gold medal hanging from her neck was all she ever wanted.
Vancouver was where it was supposed to happen. She wasn't close.
Instead, Hamlin's experience four years ago in Whistler, British Columbia, left the U.S. slider empty-handed and dejected after she placed a disappointing 16th.
“There was no way that was going to be the way I was going to go out,” the 2009 world champion said recently.
Hamlin's back for her third run at an Olympic medal in Sochi, where a young American luge team will attempt to keep up to speed with the dominating Germans, who won five of nine possible medals in 2010 and have plans for an even larger haul on the Sanki Sliding Center track in Russia's Caucasus Mountains.
Hamlin arrived in Vancouver as the defending world champion in the luge, a sport that features athletes zooming feet-first down an icy track. She was the favorite and poised to become the first U.S. singles luger to climb the Olympic podium.
Tragedy re-routed the trip down the ice for her and other competitors.
Just hours before the opening ceremony, the horrific death of Georgia men's luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a practice run led to major changes in the sliding competition. Fearing the track was too fast for some competitors, organizers shortened it by lowering the starts to reduce speed and make it safer.
Unable to solve the reconfigured first curve, Hamlin didn't have enough distance to make up time and her dreams of gold were dashed.
She never made any excuses, and now in her third games, Hamlin will try again.
“I didn't dwell on what happened,” she said. “I can't think of what might have been.”
The addition of a new team relay will give Hamlin another chance at a medal and perhaps land the U.S. its first in something other than doubles.