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AP | David J. Phillip
Erin Hamlin greets her coach after finishing the final run to win the bronze medal on Tuesday.

U.S. woman wins country's 1st singles medal in luge

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Finally, Olympic gold for Germany's Natalie Geisenberger.

Finally, Olympic anything for Erin Hamlin and the United States.

Leaving no doubt that she absolutely rules her sport, Geisenberger won the women's luge gold medal at the Sochi Games on Tuesday – posting the second-largest victory margin in Olympic history.

Her final time was 3 minutes, 19.768 seconds, 1.139 seconds better than German teammate Tatjana Huefner, the 2010 gold medalist.

And Hamlin finished third, grabbing the first medal for any American singles luge athlete at the Olympics, 50 years after luge first appeared at the games.

So in the sport's golden anniversary as part of the Olympics, Hamlin came up with bronze, a feat that will surely go down as perhaps the greatest moment in USA Luge history.

U.S. individual sliders had been fourth on three occasions at the Olympics, but never any better. So every four years, the same question gets asked – when will an American break through?

Hamlin, a native of Remsen, N.Y., finally put an end to that.

Hamlin finished 0.236 seconds behind Huefner in the race for silver, but held off Canada's Alex Gough by 0.433 seconds for the final spot on the flower stand.

It was the fifth Olympic medal for USA Luge, the first four – two silvers and two bronzes – coming in doubles races.

When Hamlin crossed the line, that medal finally clinched, she threw her arms skyward, then covered her face briefly with her hands. U.S. coach Mark Grimmette – a doubles medalist for the Americans – raced over to offer congratulations, and men's slider Chris Mazdzer reached down from the bleachers to hand Hamlin the U.S. flag.

Then the roars kept coming, for the Germans.

Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., was 10th for the U.S., and Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa., placed 15th. They were both making their Olympic debuts.

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