Erin Hamlin explains her approach to luge
Erin Hamlin is competing in her third consecutive Olympic Games. Hoping to win the United States its first-ever medal in women's luge, the former world champion explains how she stays calm before -- and during -- a high-speed luge run.
NBC: What went through your head the first time you went down a luge track?
Hamlin: The very first time I went down the track I actually don't really remember it exactly. I probably think I was a little bit terrified but wouldn't want to ever admit it, so I was playing it cool. But it was a lot of fun. I probably hit a lot of walls. There's video of me at one point that I'm, like, coming down and at the time I probably felt like I was legitimate and looking really cool and then I watch the video now and it's all over the place and I'm in sweat pants and a sweat shirt and it just looks horrible. I'm sure it was a lot of fun and not too intimidating, because I was not really a very -- I guess in that sense -- courageous person when I was little. I was kind of afraid of roller coasters and rides and stuff, so it's always funny that I got involved in this sport.
NBC: Do you still sometimes feel that fear overcome you?
Hamlin: Every once in a while at tracks that I either have trouble on or they're a little bit more challenging -- I definitely get a few butterflies at the start. I still have those nerves. Or if it's a big race -- I try and put it out of my mind and just relax, but sometimes it's good to have that, you know? It keeps you on your game. It makes you really passionate about doing what you want to do. And it makes it easier to put that extra effort in.
NBC: How do you prepare yourself for a race?
Hamlin: I spend time warming up, doing just typical jogging. I’m just getting my heart rate up, getting my body ready, because as we're going down the track we're going anywhere up to 90 miles an hour potentially. So I have to be awake. I have to be ready to react naturally. I don't have time to think before I do something. So to get my body reactive and ready to go I do a lot of plyometric drills to get loose and then give myself about 10 minutes to get my gear on.
The last few minutes before my run I basically just try and relax. I usually count on the start list, like, seven people ahead of me and try and be completely ready to go so I can chill for a second and just not really be frantically getting ready, so I can relax. Because it's really important for us to visualize our run and have everything set ahead of time.
I do what we call a mind run, where I'll visualize the entire run top to bottom. So it's in my mind. I know exactly what I have to do. And so when I get out there I can just rip at the start and relax right away and then just let it go and have fun. That's the big one.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Model Olympian: Erin Hamlin, luge
NBC: Do you have any pre-race superstitions?
Hamlin: Everything kind of starts out as convenient routine. But I always put my right glove on before my left glove. And I've gone to the extent of taking one off before the other if I did it the wrong way. I have to start over -- I don't really know why. Something just feels like it's not put together right if I do it in a different order. So I have to be comfortable. And that's one of the things I have to do. So the right side always goes on before the left side. It's not like I'm going to be like, "I can't go," if I don't do it, but it's just one of those things.
NBC: You’re sliding at almost 90 miles per hour. What are you thinking about when racing?
Hamlin: It's one of the situations where you don't have time to react. If you are going down and something happens and you're like, "Oh shoot. I have to do this," you're already three curves down. So our bodies have to be trained and able to just instinctively make adjustments and make changes, whether it's just a small shifting of our body weight. Looking at someone doing luge, it looks like they're laying there, but there's actually a ton going on.
I’m driving with my hands. I have little handles. I’m pushing this shoulder in, like, a millimeter more than this one is gonna steer. Just my legs. I'm steering with my legs. Everything all at once. At the same time I'm trying to keep perfect aerodynamic position and relaxing as much as possible to absorb any bumps -- and trying not to look.
Hopefully your brain is wired for that track enough and you know it enough that you can kind of set the sled up the curve before. You want to drive the one curve perfect so that it sets the next one up and you have less work to do, which is gonna make you faster.
But there have been times where I've gotten to the bottom and coach will say, "Okay, so how was this?" And I have to stop and say, "I have no idea." It went by so fast that a lot of times I have to collect my thoughts and really try and remember what happened, because it takes me 45 seconds to go down a mile of ice and everything sometimes is a blur.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Growing up: Erin Hamlin, luge
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