Raising an Olympian: Kate Hansen’s family tells of her Olympic upbringing


BYU student and Olympian Kate Hansen has not always lived her life on the ice.

BYU's Kate Hansen reacts after winning the women's  race at the Luge World Cup event in Sigulda, Latvia. AP photo
BYU’s Kate Hansen reacts after winning at the Luge World Cup in Sigulda, Latvia. (AP Photo)

Growing up on the hills of La Canada, Calif., the Olympian who made waves online with her Beyonce dance moves enjoyed a variety of activities and pushed her limits in everything she pursued.

“Kate was typically one of the best athletes on any team she played on,” said John Hansen, Kate Hansen’s father.

Hansen played several sports including softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer, and won the league high jump her senior year.

“We never had to motivate her to play; we just needed to get her to the field and make sure she waited until the car was completely stopped before she jumped out,” her father said. “She enjoys any competition but what she really enjoyed were the friendships from her teammates. She loves being a part of a team.”

Hansen’s athletic abilities allowed her to switch seamlessly into high-level competition. Just as seamlessly, she could return from luge events and play the other sports she grew up with.

“Even when she was gone much of the year doing luge, she would return home over Christmas break and the coach would suit her up for the basketball games and make sure she got a little playing time,” John Hansen said.

Hansen family life

Despite Hansen’s love for competition, teamwork and athletic abilities, sports were never the main focus for the Hansen family.

“We really didn’t care what sports she played so as long as she was busy and getting her other things done,” John Hansen said.

Hansen had to stay on top of seminary, school, work and cleaning her room, John Hansen added.

“She was the fourth of four children, so a lot of time was also spent watching her siblings in their sports and activities,” her father said of Kate Hansen and her relationship with her older siblings.

All four of the Hansen children enjoy surfing, snow skiing and water skiing with John Hansen and his wife, Kathie.

According to James Hales, Kate Hansen’s cousin, who is from La Crescenta, Calif., the Hansen siblings have their own unique set of talents.

“Her older brother David was a good water polo player,” Hales said of Kate Hansen’s older brother Davis, who is studying opera at BYU. “His high school team won the CIF.”

Family activities weren’t limited to athletics, her father said.

“Kate is very musical and plays a number of instruments but plays the ukulele the best,” said John Hansen. “I also play, and we attended uke festivals together.”

The Hansens also held regular season tickets for the L.A. Dodgers games for many years, follow BYU sports and have been loyal fans of the Lakers.

“She chilled pretty hard”

As a child, Kate Hansen’s laid-back personality caused everyone around her to be at ease.

“Spending time with her was always just an adventure,” Hales added. “I’d call her before my buddies.”

Kate Hansen’s success as an athlete comes in part from her ability to focus and control her emotions, Hales said.

“When she’s chilling, she chilled pretty hard,” Hales said of Kate Hansen, who could easily switch to her competitive mode when playing sports. “She’s very in control of her emotions.”

Olympic sacrifices

Like other Olympians, Kate Hansen’s success came with sacrifice. Many of her classes during her junior and senior year of high school were completed online due to frequent traveling required by her sport.

“Kate leaves in early October each year and heads to Europe to train and compete,” her father said. “She comes home for a week at Christmas and then heads back to Europe, or wherever the World Cup races are, the first week of January. She comes home at the end of the season in early March. She usually then heads to BYU for spring term.”

After spring term, Kate Hansen heads to Lake Placid, N.Y., for summer training; then it’s off to Provo or home in September, and the cycle starts all over again. Its been Kate Hansen’s life since she was 15, her father said.

Exceeding expectations

Kate Hansen’s potential as an athlete didn’t hit Hales until she started traveling with the U.S. Junior National Luge team in high school.

“It hit me when she was off doing things all over the world,” Hales said, referring to when the athlete won the junior world championship.

This shock of Kate Hansen’s rise as a world-class athlete took even her parents by surprise when she won the World Cup in January.

“We were shocked. Kathie and I were live streaming the event at 2:30 a.m., and we watched it happen. We just looked at each other and started laughing,” said Kate Hansen’s father. “Kate has always been able to pull off really fast runs, but the track in Latvia has given her problems in the past, so we were very surprised. It took a couple of days for it to sink in for Kate too.”

Kate Hansen finished 10th in women’s luge singles at the  2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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