Looking back to 2006, what was your Torino experience like?
My experience was unbelievable, I mean, it's the Olympics. It's the best sporting event in the world. It's unforgettable. Everything that happens, down to the smallest detail...you remember everything.
Take us through your 2008-09 season?
It started out kind of average. I didn't have my best results ever, but I was kind of consistent. I struggled in a couple races, but it seems like every season I have one or two races that don't really go well for me. Luckily I got those out of the way at the beginning of the season and gradually throughout the year things got a little bit better and I finished a little bit more consistently in a few higher positions. For the second half of the season, we only traveled with four people on the team, so the rest could stay home and train. There was a lot of focus on the world championships because they really wanted to see a U.S. athlete on the podium.
I won, so that was definitely the high point...to be able to fulfill that was pretty excellent. We had two races after Worlds, and [I had] a pretty solid top five in Whistler at the end of the season, kind of a good preview for next year.
What was your reaction to winning worlds?
Everything was a blur. I had no idea what to do. Everything was just kind of like, "Oh, my gosh. That really just happened?" Not many people can say that they're a world champion. And it still kind of feels a little surreal, but it's started to sink in a little and it's awesome, [especially] the effects that it had on the luge community. It was such a long streak that the Germans had and to break that is so cool.
Speaking of the German streak, did you immediately know that you had broken it?
When I came out of the finish curve in Lake Placid and I saw my time, I didn't know I had won yet. So I was just like, "Oh, my gosh. Please be good enough." [But when I won] I knew right away [I had broken it] because we hear about it all the time, "The Germans won again, they won again." They started to keep a count, so every time they won it was like. "Okay, that's number whatever." They got to 99 and then it ended.
What makes the Germans so good?
The Germans have a very strong program and the reason that they've been so good over the years is because they have a lot of numbers. I think they have five tracks in their country alone. We have only two in the entire United States. There are a lot more opportunities to get involved in the sport [in Germany] and it's easy, kids can go after school down the road to the luge track and train. We don't have that in the U.S.
We've gotten more numbers and a stronger development system, but it's still no match for a country that's had it for decades. It's a part of their culture. Lugers in Germany are like superstars; kids idolize them and want to be like them. We just don't have that sort of exposure in the United States.
How did the Germans react to your win?
There's no hostility at all. And [Natalie Geisenberger], who was on the podium with me, she was very congratulatory. And other Germans congratulated me and were happy that I won, because they know that it's good for the sport.
What was the scariest moment of your career?
In 2006 at the Olympics, my teammate had a very bad crash. And it was pretty scary seeing my teammate and my friend potentially seriously hurt. I had to go down [that track] two more times in the Olympics. So, that was nerve-wracking for a minute, but you have to be able to get over that stuff really fast.
What parts of your personality help you succeed on the track?
I'm a pretty patient person. I'm really laid back and I think being able to relax and kind of focus on what I need to do and not letting things get to my head helps me a lot. I know some factors that can really hurt athletes is when they freak out about trying to be so good at it and can't. And they give up. But I'm pretty stubborn and determined, so even if I have 20 bad runs, I'm still waiting for that one good one and I'm going to have it if it's going to take all year.
Can you put it in perspective, what it takes to be an elite athlete?
It takes so much work. This is all I do. People ask me what I do in my free time and I'm like, "I train." I train most days and during the season, I slide on Thanksgiving, I slide on, Easter.... We don't get weekends off. If we have to slide at seven in the morning, we're at the track at six-thirty. We don't, do anything else. I've dedicated my life to it.
You spend a lot of time outside. Are you a fan of cold weather?
I don't really like being cold. If I can be bundled up and not in a speed suit in a cold weather environment, it's not too bad. I love skiing and I really like being outside in the winter at home when it's pretty and snowing. But, when it's forty below and you're in Calgary and have to go out and slide, it's not my favorite thing in the world.
Compiled by NBC Olympics
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.