If there was a statement to be made by La Cañada Flintridge resident Kate Hansen on the inaugural day of her first-ever Olympic competition, perhaps it’s that the 21-year-old was at the XXII Winter Games to both compete and have a good time.
The La Cañada High alumna finished 10th after the first day of the two-day-long women’s singles luge competition held at the Sanki Olympic Sliding Center in Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia, and perhaps is known as much for her accomplishments on the track as for her dancing exploits off the sled.
Hansen completed two runs Monday morning and is slated for two more races Tuesday, with the first taking place shortly after 6:30 a.m. (PST) and the final beginning roughly at 8:20 (PST).
Hansen described her Olympic experience as “an absolute dream” in a televised interview with NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson shortly after she finished competition Monday.
“I’m having so much fun, probably the most fun I’ve ever had sliding,” Hansen said in the interview. “So, I’m just stoked to be here. I’m glad that I had two pretty clean runs, so I’m just happy.”
Those comments came shortly before Hansen asked Johnson to “drop me a beat” on the NBC Sports Network to which Hansen freestyled before the camera went to a commercial.
As for Hansen’s electric slide on the track, the American posted a two-run total time of 1 minute, 41.375 seconds, which is slightly behind Switzerland’s Martina Kocher (1:41.014) for ninth and a little less than two seconds off the pace of leader and event favorite Natalie Geisenberger (1:39.814) of Germany.
Hansen began the day by racing to a mark of 50.794 in her first run as she was the third competitor overall to fly down the track behind Russia’s Ekaterina Baturina and Geisenberger.
Hansen had a front view of the German, who turned in a magnificent effort in setting a track record time on 49.891 in 41-degree weather at the Alpika Ski Resort, located about 30 miles away from Sochi.
In her second attempt, which took place about two hours after her first try, Hansen performed even better, hitting a top speed of 81.9 miles per hour and shaving just a little over two-tenths of a second off her previous mark with a run time of 50.581.
Hansen is currently the second-highest placing American behind veteran Erin Hamlin, who is third overall with a mark of 1:40.632 and in contention to become the first American woman to medal in luge.
All four runs from Monday and Tuesday will be combined for a final time that will determine standings and medals.
Perhaps nowhere was the interest higher and more eyeballs affixed to the television screen than at Los Gringos Locos in La Cañada, a Mexican-themed restaurant owned by Hansen’s uncle, Bent, who opened his business at 8 a.m. for spectators.
In between trying to seat patrons, serve food and entertain, Bent was able to sneak in a view of both of Kate’s runs.
“She’s been working for this for 12 years and she’s fearless and she can do anything she wants, she’s amazing,” Bent said. “She did fantastic. She had clean runs and she made improvements on her second run. Tomorrow she will be even better.”
While family, friends and community members entered throughout the day, one of the early arrivers was Kate Hansen’s maternal grandmother, Marilyn Hales, of La Crescenta.
Hales seemed equally captivated and amused in watching Kate on Monday morning.
In between Kate’s two runs, the NBC Sports Network featured the La Cañada resident’s pop-locking, warm-up dance routine, which differed from some of the arm-warming and back-stretching exercises more common to the sport.
“It was exciting to see my granddaughter race. She has a mindset to do her best and has been training since she was 10 years old,” Hales said. “As you can see, she also likes to have fun, she likes to dance and she loves to luge. I knew at the Olympics she was going to do everything she wanted to do.”
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