By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Not many people can say they actually accomplished their lifetime dreams. Even less can say they did it before turning 22.
But that is exactly what Kate Hansen felt when she arrived in Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics to compete in the women’s single luge. It was then that it dawned on the 21-year-old that she had reached the pinnacle of everything she had been working toward.
“There were two moments,” Hansen said. “Walking into opening ceremonies, it was probably one of the best experiences of my life. And when I sat on my sled for my very first race. I got on my sled and there were all these cameras in my face, it just kind of hit me. I made it. I actually made it. I just couldn’t stop smiling from there on out,” Hansen said.
Hansen finished 10th in the women’s single luge with a time of 50.499. She was the second-highest placing American behind Erin Hamlin, who took the bronze.
“I’ve waited for that moment my whole life,” Hansen said. “So there was going to be nothing that was going to ruin it for me. I was pretty stoked on how I did. I was pretty happy with a top 10 finish.”
While Hansen didn’t leave Sochi with a medal, that didn’t stop her from making a name for herself. She was caught on live TV with her headphones on and dancing as if she was alone in her room.
“Whether or not people were watching, I was going to dance,” Hansen said. “I was still going to do my thing to get ready. I’ve waited for that moment for so long, I wasn’t going to let stress ruin it for me. I honestly just tried to have the most fun possible. I totally did.”
Not only were Hansen’s exuberant dance moves and rhythmic gyrations shown live on NBC, the clips became an instant hit on social media, news shows and late-night TV. Hansen had unwittingly become an Olympic celebrity from her normal warm-up routine, which always includes listening to Beyonce.
“I’ve done it for most of my career, but I would usually just get really embarrassed,” Hansen said. “I would go into a corner and start dancing, and if people would look, I’d stop. I’d get really embarrassed by it.
“But this year, I broke my foot right before open trials and couldn’t properly warm up, but I could dance in place. I kind of took it to the next level because I had no options. I needed to get warmed up before sledding. So if people were going to stare, it didn’t matter to me.”
Hansen had reached the point in her life where she was no longer going to let a small thing such as fear hold back her joy. She discovered this when she thought her dreams had been snatched away from her.
Hansen, who is a member of the Latter-day Saints, said her faith played a big part in being able to overcome the adversity she has faced in her life and luge career.
“When I broke my foot, I pretty much felt my dreams were shattered,” Hansen said. “I broke it a couple of days before the trials. You don’t train your whole life to get injured. I thought it was all over. I just kept thinking what’s supposed to happen will happen, so I just need to have faith that it will work out.
“With that in mind, I never let myself draw on the negative. I just kept moving forward and acted like nothing happened. I just knew if it was meant to be, I’d go to the Olympics.”
Now, Hansen must get on with her post-Olympic career. She said she hasn’t made up her mind on whether she will try and make it to the 2018 Winter Olympics because of how much sacrifice goes into it. She just wants to go back to school at BYU and take it year by year.
Even if Hansen’s Olympic career has come to an end, she knows she got everything out of it that she possibly could.
“I’ve been home about two or three weeks, and I’ve just been busy every day,” Hansen said. “Every day I’m reminded of the Olympics, and I still haven’t really processed what happened in my life. It was a pretty unbelievable experience. I probably won’t come down from this cloud until I get to my first class.”
Hansen will deliver a public devotional at 7 p.m. Sunday at The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day, 1506 W. Imhoff Road.
She will share stories about her athletic career, the Olympics, deriving strength from trials and living her faith. The event is free and open to the public.
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