SIGULDA, Latvia — In a season full of dark moments and dreams fulfilled, BYU student Kate Hansen finished the luge World Cup season the best way she could — with a gold medal.
The 21-year-old California native won the first women’s luge World Cup for the United States since 1997.
“It definitely hasn’t set in yet,” Hansen said. “I think when I wake up tomorrow, I will be like ‘Whoa, what just happened yesterday.’”
Hansen’s victory in Sigulda, Latvia, comes at the end of an emotional season.
She started the season by breaking a bone in her right foot while training for team selection races in Park City. For a moment, she thought her dream of making the 2014 Olympic luge team was lost. But after consulting with her family, coach and doctors, she slipped a small sleeve on her foot and won the selection races, earning her a spot on the World Cup team.
She finished fourth in the final race of the Olympic Trials in early December in Park City, clinching her spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. She’s competed the entire season, despite pain in her injured foot.
In Latvia, Hansen said she was simply trying to slide her best.
“I was just focused on putting down the run and it happened,” she said. “There was more I could have done, but obviously I’m pretty stoked about it all.”
Hansen’s winning time of 1:23.976 (two runs) came against a field that lacked the top three Germans. She beat Canadian Alex Gough by .076, followed by Russian Natalia Khoreva. U.S. luger Erin Hamlin finished fourth.
Hansen said she feels “very lucky” for the success she’s enjoyed this season.
“I was very surprised, very stoked, and relieved to have it all over,” she said. “Honestly, I’m just exhausted. It’s been a long week.”
Next up is a team training camp in France, where she said her goal is to make sure her equipment is working the way it should. The camp is meant for athletes to be able to fine-tune things before the Olympics in two weeks.
“For me personally, (the goal) will be to not get hurt,” she said. “And just enjoy sliding for what it is.”