REMSEN Two weeks after Erin M. Hamlin made Olympic history, she returned Thursday night from Sochi, Russia, to her hometown of Remsen.
The 27-year-old is the first female American luger to medal in singles at any Winter Olympics, and the first American to medal in luge since the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
I cant imagine a better group of people to come home and share this with, Miss Hamlin told a gathering of hundreds at her alma mater, Remsen Junior-Senior High School. I love coming home and seeing so many familiar faces and a lot of new ones, which is just as exciting, too.
Before her arrival, a group of about 30 supporters gathered at a float made for the homecoming to cheer the athletes arrival, blaring music and dancing to keep warm in a 13-below-zero wind chill. As it approached, Miss Hamlins bus met a parade of emergency vehicles from every corner of Oneida County.
Well-wishers of all ages lined the route to the high school, waving signs and ringing cowbells many cowbells.
At the school a brief video highlighted Miss Hamlins Olympic performance, until she was welcomed by thunderous cheers. The school band led the audience in the national anthem and school song.
Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. declared the date Miss Hamlin earned her bronze medal, Feb. 11, as Erin Hamlin Day from this point on.
Erin belongs to us; she belongs to our county, he said. He presented her with an Oneida County flag, which she then draped herself in as she had done with the American flag after her Olympic win.
After presentations from state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River, and Oneida County Sheriff Robert M. Maciol, Miss Hamlin addressed the crowd and talked about her bronze medal.
I didnt really expect to be bringing this home, but it feels pretty awesome to do it, she said.
After the first day of racing and hearing everything and everyone was so pumped ... and the race wasnt even over yet ... made it easier, to be honest, she said. I was able to feel completely relaxed, no pressure at all, because I knew even if I didnt win and come home with a medal, Id be still excited.