Junior lugers have role model in Erin Hamlin
Her unique education was “More than I ever could have dreamed of”
Utica Observer Dispatch
Shannon Knapp and Katie Shelhamer want be Erin Hamlin. “I do,” said Knapp, a 15-year-old junior national luger from Marcy. “I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to go to college at the same time.”
Knapp & Shelhamer, members of a USA Luge Junior National team, spend up to 3-4 months a year in Lake Placid training on the Mt. Van Hoevenberg track at the Olympic Training Center where Hamlin got her start.
Hamlin, a two-time Olympic luger and 2009 World Champion, graduated from Remsen in 2004 while managing her education around training in Lake Placid. Eighteen months later, Hamlin raced her way on to her first Olympic team in December 2005. Hamlin competed in her second Olympics in 2010 and, in between, she won a World Championship.
“Obviously, that’d be great; that’d be amazing,” said Shelhamer, a 17-year-old Poland junior from Cold Brook.
Knapp and Shelhamer had the same introduction to luge as Hamlin – a slider search. The difference for Shelhamer and Knapp is that the searches they attended took place because of Hamlin. She had won her World Championship in Lake Placid months before the girls first sat down on wheeled sleds for a ride down Cornelia Street in Utica.
“I was cleaning and I had the TV on and it came on that there was going to be a slider search in Utica,” said Stacey Knapp, Shannon’s mother. “I thought it would be a fun thing to do, something different for a Saturday afternoon.”
Hamlin, who recently completed her eighth World Cup season, has turned into more than a fleeting memory for the Knapps. Hamlin convinced the family that Shannon could compete in luge and be a successful student at the same time.
“I have seen and known a lot of athletes without the support I had who gave up on school and dropped out only to be an athlete,” Hamlin stated in an email. “It’s tough, but if he or she does the work required, puts in the effort and earns good grades at the same time as having a successful career, there isn’t a whole lot more you can ask of a teenager.” “I’ve had an amazing opportunity to learn all over the world.”
The unconventional high school experience of area student-athletes Shannon Knapp, Tara Seigle and Katie Shelhamer can have a lifetime of benefits. The three girls have spent significant time away from home the last few years while participating in sports not affiliated with their schools. In the case of Knapp and Shelhamer, who live at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid while training, the experience also includes meeting people from different countries and cultures. “It is really a unique opportunity,” Pauline said.
Erin Hamlin, a two-time Olympic luger from Remsen, had the same experience as a high school student more than a decade ago while she worked her way up to the U.S. Luge Senior National Team. In an email, Hamlin stated that her travels have provided her with an education beyond what she could learn in a high school classroom.
Hamlin visited a train station in Dresden, Germany, that had been bombed during World War II. She has touched the Berlin Wall, visited a former KGB bunker and Buddhist temple and stood in Red Square.
“Learning about all of these places and their history is so important but getting to see them as a teenager and young adult makes you want to learn about them,” Hamlin said. “Having to spend time living in foreign countries and making very dear friends from all of them has made me more cultured, understanding and accepting than I could have ever dreamed of.”