PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Remsen's Erin Hamlin was hoping to end her fourth and final Olympic Winter Games on a higher note.
A second Olympic medal was within her reach entering Tuesday's third and fourth runs in women's singles luge, but the most decorated American singles slider in the history of the sport ended her career with a sixth-place finish at the Alpensia Sliding Center.
Hamlin, the 2014 Sochi Olympic bronze medalist, finished with a cumulative time of 3:05.912.
The flag-bearer for Team USA during Friday's Opening Ceremony, Hamlin finished her final run in 46.716 seconds, falling out of the top five but ending up with the highest finish of any of the three Americans.
“I was really hoping to end on a more positive note,” Hamlin, 31, told The Associated Press. “But unfortunately, that did not happen. And that’s all right.”
German Natalie Geisenberger continued her dominance, successfully defending her Olympic gold when she finished in 3:05.232. Dajana Eitberger of Germany won the silver (3:05.599) and bronze medalist Alex Gough (3:05.644) became the first Canadian to medal in Olympic luge.
German Tatjana Huefner placed fourth (3:05.713) and Canadian Kimbery McRae finished fifth (3:05.878).
American Summer Britcher, a two-time Olympian, had a bumpy start to her fourth run and fell from eighth to 19th (3:08.334). USA Luge teammate Emily Sweeney crashed her sled during the fourth run and did not finish.
Hamlin entered Tuesday's medal round in fifth place, just one-eighth of a second out of a medal.
"I was definitely going for it," Hamlin said. "I really wanted to end on a good, solid run. The parts that I had issues with from the other runs, I did clean up. But unfortunately, the issue I had on that run was typical out of (curve) nine.
"I have no regrets. I do wish I was able to have four clean runs. I was disappointed in the fourth one. I was not able to capitalize on a really good opportunity. At the end of these races, anything can happen. It’s one of the closest Olympic races I’ve ever been in. It was really exciting and it would have been nice to capitalize on the situation. But I had fun. It was a good experience, and I’m ready to sleep a little bit."
Her final run was her slowest, though, as Hamlin followed troubled runs by her teammates. She was on pace to remain in the top five as she slid swiftly down the upper half of the course. However, Hamlin brushed her feet along the ice through Curve 10, costing her precious time and ultimately dropping her to sixth.
“I’ve kind of experienced all bits of the spectrum,” Hamlin told The Associated Press. “I have been completely devastated by an Olympics, just kind of cruised through one and had fun, was super-elated at one. The years of experience play into it for sure, and keeping everything in perspective I think is big.”
Hamlin joins Cameron Myler (1988-98) as the only American women lugers to compete in four Olympics. Hamlin will retire as a two-time World Champion, reigning Female Athlete of the Year as voted by the United States Luge Association Board of Directors and ensuing Assembly, and a four-time World Cup gold medalist with plenty more medals on the World Cup and World Championship circuit.
Geisenberger kept the gold medal in Germany for a sixth straight Olympics. She became the third woman to win back-to-back gold, joining Steffi Martin Walter (1984, 1988) and Sylke Otto (2002, 2006). Geisenberger, who turned 30 on Feb. 5, also is the all-time leader in World Cup women’s singles victories (38) and has been No. 1 in the World Cup standings for six straight seasons.
Eitberger’s silver medal gave Germany ownership of 14 of the last 18 medals since 1998. Gough’s bronze medal prevented a German sweep, becoming the first Canadian — man or woman — to medal in luge in the process. Hamlin did the same for America at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Britcher, 23, was well on her way to a top-10 finish before bouncing off the wall on her fourth run — just moments after Sweeney’s scary wipe out. Britcher finished her final slid in 48.770 seconds for an overall time of 3:08.334.
Sweeney, making her Olympic debut, first wrecked her sled during a training run Sunday. On Tuesday, Sweeney improved from 15th to 14th entering the final run. The 24-year-old U.S. Army veteran would then slide against the side of the track past Curve 9. Sweeney's sled sent her into a zigzag for many meters before she fell off, leaving the audience in utter silence as she struggled for a few moments to lift herself off the ice. She'd eventually walk off the track under her own power.
Contact reporter Marquel Slaughter at 315-792-4963 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_Slaughter).