ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - Remsen native Erin Hamlin clinched the USA's first individual luge medal in the 2014 Olympics, a huge accomplishment for the Mohawk Valley and the United States.
Young American lugers, such as Rome native Hannah Miller, now feel a sense of hope they never felt before -- to compete and win a medal in the Olympics. Miller's parents said their daughter is following in Erin Hamlin's footsteps.
Hannah Miller is an active junior luger training in Lake Placid. She discovered the sport after her mother saw an ad in the paper about a "slider search" for luge in Utica in 2009. Amy Miller, Hannah's mother, thought she was taking her 12-year-old daughter for a fun educational activity and soon realized it was a luge recruitment event. Hannah became addicted to the sport.
"She went up at the end to the coach, who was the manager of recruitment and development, and asked if she could come back for the afternoon session," Amy Miller said. "He said 'sure,' so we went to lunch, came back and we came back the next day for both clinics. She said, 'Even if I don't make the team, I still want to do this.' "
A few weeks later, Hannah was recruited to try out for a luge development team camp and the rest is history. Her mother spent the next 14 weeks between November and March, driving her daughter back and forth from Rome to Lake Placid, a seven hour roundtrip. Today, 16-year-old Miller spends eight months out of the year training.
"Seeing her gain confidence as person," said Amy Miller, "Seeing her change physically from a slightly chubby 12 year old to this person who is strong and physically fit."
Miller's goal is to make it to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
"When Erin won, and I saw the expression on her family's faces and Erin's face, I can't imagine that -- but I want to," said Hannah's dad Matt Miller. "Just to see that joy, as a dad, it doesn't get any better."
"For Erin to do it at the Olympics and to medal -- the first woman, the first single slider in U.S. history -- but to be a woman who started at same age Hannah did," Amy Miller said, "I think it's given her an attainable goal, when before it might have seemed less attainable."
Medals or not, as long as Hannah Miller wants to continue to luge, her parents say they are there to support her.