KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — As Kate Hansen sat at the top of the luge track awaiting her final Olympic run, she took a little trip down memory lane.
“I looked at my career year by year,” said the 21-year-old BYU student after finishing 10th in her first Olympic luge competition. “From when I started in the sport until now, I looked back at all those terrible times, all the crashes, getting yelled at, all my broken bones, and then I looked at myself (and) I was like, ‘Whoa, you made it. Now let it rip.' And I did.”
Hansen witnessed history Tuesday when her teammate, Erin Hamlin, won the first ever individual luge Olympic medal for the U.S. with a bronze-medal finish.
“It’s amazing,” Hamlin said. “It’s surreal really.” Hamlin’s bronze is the fifth Olympic medal won by USA Luge in the 50 years the sport’s been included in the games, but all four others — two silvers and two bronzes — were in doubles.
One of those former medalists is Hamlin's coach, Mark Grimmette, who ran to the side of the track to congratulate her as she covered her face after finishing 0.236 seconds behind silver medalist Tatjana Huefner of Germany, who was the defending Olympic champion. The gold medal was won by Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, the 2010 bronze medalist, who won with a time of 3:19.768. It was the second-largest margin of victory in the sport's history.
Meanwhile, Hansen was thrilled for Hamlin to make history.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Hansen said. “I’m just so stoked for her.”
The California native said she was able to savor the final moments of her Olympic experience Tuesday evening because she offered the sport her best. And as rough as the road has been at times, she said it has been worth every step.
“I never thought I would have this platform representing so many things in my life,” she said of representing her family, LDS faith, school and country. “It’s just been such a blessing. I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience. I have just learned a lot about myself. ... It’s been an unbelievable experience.”
Hansen had a hard time summing up what this week has been like for her.
“The Olympic experience has been more than words,” she said. “Just to be on the same platform as athletes I’ve looked up to for years, my entire life ... it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
And while she’ll probably keep trying, she’s not sure she ever will be able to fully convey what all of this has meant to her.
“To race on the world stage, to have so many people be interested in what I do,” she said, “I know for the rest of my life I’ll never have words for the experience. I know I’ll never be able to explain it to other people unless they’ve been Olympians because it’s such a special thing.” Hansen said the only thing she’s certain of is that she’s headed back to BYU.
Her future endeavor is to “hit the books and hopefully, just the pursuit of happiness.”
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