Nightly News   |  February 15, 2010

American luger on fast track to success

Erin Hamlin's quick moves at last year's luge world championships brought Germany its first loss in 99 straight women's races and showed the U.S. has a shot at its first Olympic gold in the sport. NBC's Chris Jansing reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the biggest events is luge. even as this community of athletes mourns the death of one of their own, the competition goes on, of course. one of america's hopefuls in this event, a young woman from a small town in upstate, new york. and just about everyone in town will be watching and cheering and wishing erin hamlin good luck and a safe ride. chris jansing has her story tonight.

>> reporter: aaron herin hamlin is so laid back, you would find it hard to believe she could cause an uproar. but she did.

>> the luge world is rooked right now.

>> reporter: germany's first loss in 99 straight women's races.

>> you always have that in the back of your head, wanting to beat the germans andy it.

>> reporter: the u.s. had their first real shot in olympic gold in luge.

>> never in a million years do you think you'd be sitting in this seat. someone said to me, you know, nbc's going to be coming to your door. and i'm going, yeah, right.

>> reporter: the road to erin 's dreams started here in this small upstate new york town, population less than 2,000. erin 's mom is the high school nurse. her aunt the school secretary.

>> yes, may i help you?

>> reporter: and the local county legislature is her grandpa.

>> this is an oldy but a goody.

>> yeah, that's where it all starts.

>> reporter: who bought erin her first conventional sled. at age 12 she fell in love with the luge.

>> it's so much fun. going fast, you can go 90 miles an hour and not get in trouble for it. there's not many other things you can do that.

>> reporter: erin slowed down just long enough to help out at the family steak stand during the annual arts festival . which seemed like another reason to celebrate the hometown hero . the mayor himself hung the banner across main street .

>> it's made the village really come alive again.

>> reporter: the general store is selling hamlin hats. small town support that means the world to erin .

>> having that many people watching you and wanting you to do well, makes it that much better, it's awesome.

>> reporter: even the soda fountain restaurant named a sundae after her.

>> that's great.

>> reporter: what would it mean to you if that girl brought home a medal.

>> it puts tears in my eyes just talking to you about it.

>> reporter: it would be something else, wouldn't it?

>> you bet your life.

>> reporter: as remsen and all of germany know, you shouldn't bet against erin hamlin .

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