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Summer Britcher finishes 15th in Olympic women's luge singles

Olympics

SOCHI, Russia – U.S. luger Summer Britcher competes in an individual sport, but these Games have been all about the team for the Baltimore-born teen and her fellow American sliders.

Britcher – who finished 15th in the women's event, which concluded Tuesday – celebrated teammate Erin Hamlin’s historic bronze medal almost as if she had made the podium herself.  She struggled to contain her emotions as she described what the Olympic medal – the first for the United States in a singles luge event – would mean both to her friend and her federation.

“Oh, wow. It’s so amazing,” Britcher said. “She’s making history and she deserves it because she works so hard.”

Hamlin finished 1.37 seconds behind Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger (3 minutes, 19.768 seconds), who maintained her country’s dominance in the sliding sport. Tatjana Huefner, who won gold in Vancouver four years ago, finished second.

American Kate Hansen placed 10th.

"It's surreal,” Hamlin said. “I came here with no expectations and this is beyond what I imagined.”

Currently ranked sixth in the world, Hamlin did not reach the podium in any World Cup race this season. She openly doubted her chances here,  as well, telling reporters last week that her best shot at winning an Olympic medal had been four years ago in Vancouver. 

Her position, however, evolved quickly after finding a feel for the Russian track in training sessions at the Sanki Sliding Center. When she looked at practice times  and compared them with her top competitors, Hamlin began to believe in her own possibilities and laid down four clean runs to secure the historic bronze. 

“Watching Erin this week and especially the last few days, I’ve been really inspired by her,” Britcher said. “She has just stayed so calm and so determined.”

Hamlin’s cool demeanor during the Games so impressed Britcher, that the 19-year-old slider hopes to emulate it during the World Cup circuit next season. A self-describe “nutcase,” Britcher said Hamlin showed her the importance of not getting down on yourself.

“I’m just going to remind myself a little more often that I’m here to have fun,” she said, before quickly correcting herself. “Well, I’m not here to have fun. I’m here because I have fun doing this. That’s why I’m here.”

In the meantime, Britcher -- the daugther of Baltimore City Fire Department captain Bill Britcher -- will spend the next 10 days soaking in the Olympic experience. She plans to attend as many competitions as possible, though she’s most interested in scoring figure skating tickets.          

“I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s been amazing.”

sstclair@tribune.com   
twitter.com/stacystclair 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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