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America’s Hamlin relishing her breakthrough luge moment

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 11:25 a.m. CDT

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Within hours of becoming the first American to ever win an Olympic singles luge medal, Erin Hamlin got dozens of invitations to go various places, give some speeches, even appear on a game show.

Her new life sounds pretty good so far.

Hamlin and her family partied into the wee hours of Wednesday morning to celebrate her bronze medal in the women’s luge competition, sharing food and stories and a long-awaited Champagne toast or two. After maybe a couple of hours sleep, Team Hamlin got a chauffeured ride into Sochi for a long list of media tours and sponsor appearances.

“Surreal,” Hamlin said. “Still can’t believe this.”

She finished third, which seemed irrelevant. All the spoils of victory were hers, and deservedly so.

“Enjoying it immensely,” her father, Ron Hamlin, said along the route. “We’re soaking it all in right now.”

And this ride might last a while.

Hamlin may be introduced as an Olympic medalist for the rest of her life, something that obviously could prove lucrative for her — as well as for USA Luge, which has long been looking for more money and medals. It’s no secret that the amount of U.S. Olympic Committee funding for various sports is usually contingent on big-race results, and Hamlin’s slide to the Olympic finish line will undoubtedly aid USA Luge’s bottom line.

USA Luge had four Olympic medals before now, all in doubles, two silvers and two bronzes. Hamlin was the 2009 world champion, and five years later, finally gave the U.S. a solo medal on the sport’s biggest stage.