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La Canada Flintrige's Kate Hansen in 10th

The luger shares her thoughts on her first day in Winter Olympic competition: “pretty awesome.”

Twitter photo of Kate Hansen of La Canada Flintridge Monday in her first day at the luge competition.
Twitter photo of Kate Hansen of La Canada Flintridge Monday in her first day at the luge competition.

La Canada Flintridge resident Kate Hansen is in 10th place entering today's conclusion of the women's singles luge at the XXII Winter Olympics.

Before the race, Hansen said she “would love a Top 10 finish.”

Hansen was in 10th Monday following the completion of the first runs on the Sanki Sliding Center track in Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia, with a time of 50.794 seconds.

Hansen's second run was faster, 50.581, the 11th fastest overall, but was fast enough to keep her in 10th in the field of 31 lugers with a two-run total time of 1:41.375, 1.561 behind the leader, Natalie Geisenberger of Germany.

“I had two clean runs,” the 21-year-old Hansen said. “I'm just glad I didn't make a fool of myself by crashing or bashing any walls, so I'm pretty happy.”

Hansen called competing in the Olympics for the first time “pretty awesome.”

“I was really, really excited and couldn't stop smiling,” said Hansen, a 2010 graduate of La Canada High School who now attends Brigham Young University.

“I was just sitting at the start and just had this huge smile on my face ’cause it just hit me all in one moment that I was at the Olympics.”

Hansen drew attention on NBC's telecast with her pre-race routine of vigorous dancing to music by Beyonce. Her relatives and friends gathered at Los Gringos Locos, a La Canada Flintridge Mexican restaurant Hansen's father  co-owns with his brother Bent, to watch her compete.

Another German, Tatjana Huefner is in second, 0.766 behind Geisenberger, with Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y., in third, 0.818 off the lead.

The U.S. has never won a medal in women's luge, nor a medal in luge singles, either men's or women's. It has won four medals in men's doubles, two silver and two bronze.

Hamlin winning a medal would be “un-freaking-believable,” Hansen said.

“She's one of the hardest-working athletes I know and it would be so well-deserved,” Hansen said. “It would really give U.S. luge a huge boost of confidence heading into next season.”

NBC will air the competition on a delayed basis from 3-5 p.m.

Hansen said her becoming a luger was “pretty random.”

Her father, John, took her to a “slider search” in Long Beach conducted by USA Luge, the sport's national governing body, when she was 10 years old, after being advised there was a correlation between two of her favorite activities, skateboarding and surfing, and luge.

“Sliding is a lot like surfing so I took to it really well,” Hansen said.

In 2008, Hansen became the youngest U.S. luge junior world champion when she was 15 years old. She narrowly missed earning a spot on the U.S. team for the 2010 Olympics.

Hansen was seventh in the World Cup standings this season despite racing with a broken foot for several months. She won the Jan. 25 race in Sigulda, Latvia, the first World Cup victory by a U.S. luge singles athlete since 1997. The victory prompted the U.S. Olympic Committee to select her as its Female Athlete of the Month.

Luge is the word for sled in the Savoy/Swiss dialect of French. It is considered to be one of the most dangerous Olympic winter sports. Lugers slide at speeds approaching 90 mph on sleds on a track of artificially frozen ice.

The luger starts in a seated position. After pushing off, he or she lies down on his or her back on the sled with his or her feet stretched out. The rider steers the sled by moving his or her center of gravity.

--City News Service

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