When Kate Hansen placed 10th in luge in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, she also managed to dance her way into viewers’ hearts around the world with her positive attitude and energy. Her famous warm-up dances made global news and made her a fan favorite.
Describing her experience, Kate said, “It’s never about the end game of getting to Sochi. It’s so much more about embracing the struggle and not running from what’s hard.”
For a California girl who loves the beach and staying warm, her decision to become a professional luger—which means that she would be hurtling down icy tracks on a sled, feet first on her back—was initially based on the fact that it got her out of school. Even though she admits she wasn’t very good at first, she liked it and stuck with it through her youth.
After missing the 2010 Olympics by only two spots in the Olympic trials, Kate almost decided to quit, since it would be another four years before she could qualify again. However, she motivated herself to keep trying.
“I’ve got to try for this,” she told herself, “because I know . . . in like 20 years, my kids are going to come to me and say they want to quit. And I won’t be able to look them in the face and give them that pep talk if I quit myself. . . . I have to try this. I have to go for it.”
To prepare herself, she lived in the Olympic Training Center in upstate New York, where she was “surrounded by greatness.”
However, once she was surrounded with former Olympians and other talented athletes, fear set in. “I’m not good enough,” she worried. “Am I really even committed to this?”
“My mind started playing games with me,” she described. “I truly believed that I couldn’t do it. And I realized that my mind was my worst enemy.”
When Kate read a scripture that said, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not,” she realized she needed to change her attitude and outlook. Substituting protein shakes for soda and greens for ice cream, she worked extra hard to motivate her mind and body towards her goal.
“Go the extra mile,” Kate said. “Do everything that everyone doesn’t expect you to do, because that is when you’re going to reach your full potential. When you go above and beyond, that’s when you’re going to be the best human that you can be.”
However, after a broken foot threatened to derail her Olympic dreams, Kate decided to “control [her] thoughts.” She ran through every track in her mind ten times before her run, worked her upper body for better push starts, and competed through her injury to make the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Making the Olympics was “pure peace,” Kate explained. “It was calm.”
Competing in Sochi, Kate decided that she wouldn’t let anything, even stress, ruin her Olympic experience. She realized that by controlling her thoughts and staying positive, she had the ability to make or break her experience.
“I don’t care if I crash,” Kate told herself. “I made it, I did it. My family’s going to love me anyway.”
Placing 10th in the luge, people remember Kate for more than her athleticism and skill. “[People] remember me for the person that I was.” she said. “They remember me for the person that I chose to be, for the energy that I brought, and for the smile that I had.”
Since the Olympics, Kate attends BYU, studying public relations and business. According to her presentation, her post-Olympic life comes with unique struggles, like classes and dating. Kate extended a challenge to address the struggles that everyone faces in life,
“You’ve got problems, I’ve got problems, we’ve all got problems,” Kate said. “Look deep inside and figure out what is that struggle that you have. Because I want you to figure it out, and when you do I want you to stare at it with a big smile, and give it a huge awkward hug. . . . I want you to address what’s going on, and I promise you, you will gain insight that you never thought you had, and you will be so grateful you did.”