For Olympian Kate Hansen, luge is more than just an athletic endeavor; it's a Mormon missionary opportunity
"It was hard," she said of taking a break from luge and attending BYU. "It definitely wasn't easy, but I loved it. It was one of the best decisions I made."
She said the questions about her sport had always bothered her, as there was the implication that it was really just glorified sledding and that one didn't need to be very athletic to compete.
"I've dedicated my life to this, and it's the hardest thing I've ever done," she said. "No one is ever going to know; only your teammates understand. That's why I avoided telling people."
The firesides gave her the opportunity to educate people who saw her as more than an athlete. It gave her freedom and helped her to feel understood.
Finding her own testimony at a young age was critical as Hansen was traveling the world alone as a teen.
“When I was younger, it was definitely a concern,” she said of her commitment to her Mormon faith. “There was a time when I really needed to figure out if it was for me. Seven years later, it’s not even a question. We actually joke about it all the time.”
It’s customary that the winner of any luge event parties the hardest with all the other athletes after the competition. While there were questions and even some pressure when she was younger, now everyone understands and embraces that her version of partying is a bit different.
“I’ve had a lot of missionary experiences,” she said. “It’s taught me to figure out what my life is about. It never really changed me or anything and never threw my faith into question.”
And that’s something for which she said she is grateful, especially after hearing that her behavior is being watched by people such as Bakirov.
“That is probably one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “It makes you think, ‘What have you been doing? How have you been living?’ I was grateful that I did things the right way, that I did the little things.”
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