Kate Hansen slips on her helmet and takes a few deep breaths as she grabs her sled and gets ready for one more run. Fifty seconds later she is at the bottom of the one mile long track. Luge is her sport, and the 2014 Winter Olympics her goal.
Kate, a California native and BYU student, spends eight months of the year training and competing in luge races. A member of the USA Luge team, Hansen has dedicated her life to luge in order to have a chance to compete in the Olympics and win a medal for the United States of America.
It began as a fun activity for a daddy-daughter date in La Canada, Calif., 11 years ago and has turned into an all-consuming job.
“We knew she could be a successful athlete in almost any sport, but (luge) was not our priority,” John Hansen, Kate’s father said. “We were not really happy about having her move out when she was 15, but the coaches promised us she would be well cared for.”
Kate’s morning begins with a 7 a.m. wake up call, followed by training an hour later. She lifts weights for two hours, eats lunch and then attends physical therapy for a few hours in the afternoon. Her day concludes with training on the track in the late afternoon. In order to train in the off-season, wheels are put on the sleds to imitate the sled sliding on ice.
During the season, Kate’s days look similar, but they start and finish in a variety of European countries.
“We have a pretty strict schedule and it definitely takes a toll on our bodies, but once we start competing in world cups, it’s so worth it,” Kate said. “I love traveling and I love meeting new people, so the opportunity to be considered a top contender internationally is a dream.”
Kate has traveled all around the world, from Park City, to Munich, Germany, to Lake Placid, New York, where she currently resides. Kate has slid on more than 13 tracks and competed against hundreds of other athletes. Kate travels with the World Cup Circuit, a team that luges in many different countries.
“Traveling with the World Cup Circuit is definitely more a job than it is sightseeing, but it is a cool experience to be living among the locals,” Kate said. “It’s a culturing and humbling experience to see the way these people live, and it is something I am always reminded of when we go out there every year. I wish I could be taking historical tours of Europe like I was on a study abroad but racing is the only thing on my mind”
While Kate feels that she has been culturally enriched with her travels, luge isn’t always fun and games.
“I started traveling when I was 15 and it was a hard adjustment to be away from home six months out of the year,” Kate said. “There were a lot of times when I was alone in a hotel room in the middle of Austria and all I wanted was to hug my mom, but I still had two months left before I could even think of getting on a plane to America. Internet is also a sketchy situation so many times it is a luxury to call a friend.”
In her offseason during the spring months, Kate comes back to BYU, where she takes one term of classes. Kate’s friends describe her as being one of the most outgoing and friendly people they know.
“Kate has all the talent and beauty to be conceited, but she is as down to earth and friendly as they come,” said Ryan Wade, a BYU student and friend. “Everyone feels like Kate is their friend. That right there says a lot about her.”
This past spring, Kate took an assortment of classes, including floral design and German. She plans to return next spring to take more classes. Kate looks forward to her yearly return to school and friends in Provo, where she can take a break from her competitive schedule and live a more normal life as a college student.
“I absolutely love BYU because there is nowhere else that I can leave the sport behind me and be just like everyone else,” Kate said. “There are friendly people everywhere you go and it’s hard not to feel welcome here. It is nice to be able to be around spiritual people for once and to have the opportunity to go to church. Count your blessings, right?”
After finishing up classes, Kate left for New York and won’t be back at BYU until next spring term, at the earliest. She hopes to be in Russia during winter semester, fulfilling her lifelong dream of competing in the winter olympics. However, only three of the seven female athletes on the USA Luge Team get the opportunity to represent America in the Sochi Olympics.
In order to determine who makes the team, the teammates have two race-offs to see who makes the World Cup Team, with the slowest person being sent home each race. An accumulation of points from the five races in the World Cup, which begins in October, determines who gets names on the US Olympic team.
“I love my team and we really do get along, but once that fourth year comes around everything changes,” Kate said. “You really have to watch what you say and how you act because people all of a sudden don’t have your back and it’s a hard situation to be in. You want your best friends to succeed, but obviously not if they are faster than you are. It’s always a tough year and I am still mentally preparing for what is about to hit me.”
Despite the inner-team competition, Kate keeps a positive attitude about what lies ahead for her. Her destiny will be determined this Christmas when the World Cup is completed.
“I am still not sure what my next step will be, I am more just planning on making these Olympics so then I dont have to prepare to fail,” Kate said. “When I do make these games, I’ll be back on the BYU grind fall 2014.”