For months, Erin Hamlin would cringe before participating in any discussions about racing at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
"I have to make the team first," Hamlin said, more than once.
That's no longer a worry.
The 23-year-old reigning world women's luge champion from Remsen, N.Y., officially clinched her spot Sunday for the Vancouver Games, finishing fifth behind four Germans in a World Cup race. It'll be her second trip to the Olympics, after finishing 12th at the Turin Games in 2006.
"It's nice to know that I don't have to worry about qualification any more and I can just concentrate on each race as it comes," said Hamlin, who needed a top-five finish on the World Cup circuit to secure her spot on the U.S. team.
Hamlin is the first American luge competitor to clinch an Olympic trip. The remainder of the U.S. roster will be unveiled Dec. 18.
It's likely the other spots on the women's U.S. Olympic team will be selected in a race-off that would follow next weekend's World Cup race in Lillehammer, Norway. If that race happens, Hamlin gets the day off.
Tatjana Huefner led Germany's women and extended the powerhouse nation's winning streak on the World Cup circuit to 93 races _ although Hamlin won the world championship in February on her home track in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Huefner had the fastest runs in both heats Sunday to grab her 18th World Cup win with a two-run time of 1 minute, 47.555 seconds. Natalie Geisenberger, Anke Wischnewski and Corinna Martini followed for the Germans, while Hamlin's time was 1:48.522.
Hamlin needed to finish fifth or better to clinch, and edged sixth-place finisher Nina Reithmeyer of Austria by only 0.062 seconds.
Other Americans in Sunday's women's race included 16-year-old Emily Sweeney of Suffield, Conn. placing 13th, four spots ahead of her older sister, Megan Sweeney.
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