Kate Hansen stood beside a table set up in Los Gringos Locos on Thursday night that showcased some of her most prized possessions: a pair of well-worn gloves with spiked fingertips, shoes that zip shut, a sled called a luge and Junior World Championship medals.
Behind the table hung a photo of Hansen in a racing suit and beanie, posing in the snow.
Hansen, 22, is a La Cañada High School graduate who began entering in luge competitions after being recruited more than a decade ago. A luge is a small, one- or two-person sled on which a racer rides face-up and feet-forward, but over which the racer has very little control beyond steering input applied by the racer’s legs to the tips of the sled’s runners. Speeds of up to 90 mph can be achieved.
She has competed around the world and now has her sights set on the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Hansen nearly made the U.S. team during the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver.
On a visit to her hometown last week, Hansen asked friends, teachers and neighbors to support her Olympic goals. She signed T-shirts for $20 apiece and Los Gringos Locos, owned by her uncle, Bent Hansen, donated a portion of Thursday night’s sales toward funding training sessions with the USA Luge team in Norway and Germany.
Kate Hansen greeted everyone who walked into the restaurant on Foothill Boulevard and showed off her sled and racing gear to children eager to learn about the sport.
“It’s challenging,” she told a group of young girls. “It’s a hard, sometimes scary, sport.”
Another girl who attended the fundraiser used a smart phone to watch a video of Hansen performing in a luge competition.
Hansen said she didn’t have any specific fundraising goals she wanted to hit while in La Cañada. “I’m grateful for whatever comes in,” she said.
Bent Hansen said the restaurant collected more than $1,500 on Thursday, but that the family expected more donations to roll in throughout the week. The young Olympic hopeful received support from close friends as well as strangers.
“Some people didn’t even know Kate and just wanted to support the Olympics,” said Bent Hansen.
“I am never surprised by La Cañada,” he added. “The community always embraces something like this.”