She went to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi as a relative unknown, but Kate Hansen came back as an viral video sensation.
Hansen placed 10th in the women’s singles luge, but won the Internet with her pre-race dance routine and for playing part in a hoax put on by the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
Hansen is driving cross country from Lake Placid, N.Y., back home to California, and made a stop to visit relatives in Norman this weekend.
At 7 p.m. Sunday, she will speak to the congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 1506 W. Imhoff Road in Norman.
When they go to do recruitment clinics, they travel around America. It’s an open call for kids to try it out. They came to Long Beach when I was 10 years old. It’s the same sled, but with wheels on it, so I pretty much just tried out. But I surfed a lot growing up. In high school I played volleyball, basketball, track, softball. I did them all.
When I was about 15, I started traveling to Europe and competing on the international circuit. It was definitely a new experience. When we travel, it’s only teammates and coaches. There’s no parents. We’re on the road for about six months. It was definitely a tough adjustment but I learned a lot.
A lot of luging is just reaction, instinct. It’s definitely tunnel vision. You’re not really thinking at all, because if you think you’ll end up on your face. You’re not thinking about anything else besides what’s happening in front of you. And before you know it, your run’s over.
I was really happy with my performance. My training wasn’t the best the week before, so I was pretty lucky to squeeze into the top 10. There’s always things you think you could have done better, but after being in the Olympics, I’m definitely not going to worry about it. I was pretty stoked with how I performed.
I had no expectations. I didn’t assume anything going into it. I never really let myself think about the Olympics because it was such a far-off goal for me. I really wasn’t surprised by anything. I was taking everything in stride and was grateful to be there.
I broke my foot in the beginning of October, right before Olympic trials. I couldn’t walk and I was crutching around Europe for eight weeks. I couldn’t lift and I lost a lot of weight because of it. I just couldn’t really train properly. If I hit another wall, I could have injured my foot even worse. The whole time (during qualifying) I couldn’t put any pressure on it. It definitely threw a wrench into my Olympic plans, but it all worked out in the end. It was just a little tight in Sochi, but for the most part I could run and slide.
At qualifying (around Christmas time) I finished in top five, which automatically qualified me for the Olympic team. It was unbelievable. It had been a long three months. I had nothing left to give, nothing left to say. All I could do was cry. I was just grateful that it was over.
That (pre-race dance routine) is something I’ve pretty much done my whole career. I broke my foot in the beginning of the season, so I couldn’t really warm up properly. I couldn’t run but I could dance in place. When I started dancing, people would just kinda look and I’d stop. I used to get really embarrassed. But once I broke my foot, I just didn’t care what people thought of me. I went for it and that’s kinda what it turned into.
I definitely don’t feel like an Internet sensation. I definitely didn’t project that amount of social media for me. I was never really into Twitter. I never tweeted at all. They (Team USA) actually made me get one. I was maybe 100, 200 (followers) and now I’m past 20,000 (24,037 as of Saturday). It kinda makes me laugh, honestly. I just think it’s so interesting how social media could blow up this way.
My coaches were at first a little apprehensive about it. But I started putting up pretty good results. They actually started calling me “Happy Feet” by the end of the season. Sometimes I think they thought I wasn’t really focused, but I have way more fun warming up that way than I do normally. When I’m having fun I definitely slide better, so they were supportive.
I grew up in L.A. and there were some family friends that knew some producers at the Jimmy Kimmel show. They contacted me and were like “We have this idea (for a hoax). What do you think?” I was like “yeah that’s hilarious.”
They posted it and it kinda blew up after that. It definitely caused some backlash. If there’s a wolf in the village, it’s like a security breach. A lot people were mad that I was kind of making light of all the security problems. But I had no ill will when I decided to do it, no intention of making fun of anything. Sochi did a great job with the Olympics. I didn’t mean for anything bad to come out of it. It was all in good humor.
Overall, Sochi did a really good job of putting the games together. As athletes and staff, we had no problems with transportation or security. I think the media, they were probably a little bit surprised with the conditions they were dealing with. As far as the athletes go, we had a great time.
I was definitely more stoked to meet athletes more than people in Hollywood. Torah Bright (Australian snowboarder) is one of my heroes and I met her in the village, so that was definitely one of the highlights. Also meeting Shaun White, he was pretty cool too.
To me, sex at the Olympics wasn’t really an issue. Stuff like that for sure happens, but it’s not really what the newspapers blew it up to be either. As far as I go, I have a boyfriend, that wasn’t my flow and it didn’t really bother me at all.
Coming back, I wasn’t expecting any attention from sponsors. I think that’s a huge misconception of the Olympics. I think there’s the two percent of athletes that do have endorsements and do make a lot of money, but for a majority of us we don’t make a thing. I don’t have personal sponsors. I have a job on the side as well, so we don’t do the sport for the money; we do it because we love it. My family owns a Mexican restaurant (in La Canada) and this summer I worked at a golf course. It’s definitely not easy, especially when you have school with it. I’ve not been contacted at all for sponsorships and I don’t expect to be, honestly.