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Second String: The real Kate Hansen smiles, shines through

March 12, 2014|By Grant Gordon, grant.gordon@latimes.com
  • La Cañada Flintridge's Kate Hansen made quite an impact at the Winter Games, both on and off the sled, and returned home to a hero's welcome. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
La Cañada Flintridge's Kate Hansen made…

“When you talk to Kate Hansen, even if it’s just for 35 minutes or so, it doesn’t take that long to believe you’ve gotten to know her. And it takes even less time to know you’re going to root for her.”

-Excerpt from Feb. 5 ‘Second String’

Upon sports’ grandest and most majestic stage, myriad images of Kate Hansen resonated.

She smiled, she danced, she pranked and, of course, she luged.

In other words, as the Winter Olympics played out in Sochi, Russia and before our eyes, Kate Hansen was herself.

“I had so much fun. It was so cool to be a team with all the other U.S. athletes, to just be united,” Hansen said on a Monday shortly after her return stateside following the Olympics and a subsequent trip to Spain. “Just to feel like a member of Team USA, that was the coolest part.”

In many ways, Hansen’s Olympic run was memorable because an audience was able to see Kate being Kate. True to form, it’s a phenomenon she’s still trying to figure out.

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“I don’t think Kate really understood what was going on,” her mom, Kathie, said. “She would just say, ‘That’s just what I do.’”

On a sunny Southern California afternoon, as Kate looked back across the globe to a month prior, it’s abundantly clear that she soaked up every second of fulfilling an Olympic dream that she was obviously wide awake to experience.

Even her arrival in Sochi was memorable.

“Coolest day of my life – easily. That was so much fun,” said Hansen of all the free swag and all-star treatment bestowed upon her and her teammates upon their arrival. “I wasn’t expecting so much. It was very overwhelming.”

Then came the Opening Ceremonies. And while sports are often arduous to prognosticate, the ceremonies went exactly as Hansen predicted, as a camera shot captured her teammates shouting “USA!” while she smiled and wiped away tears.

“I was bawling the whole time. It was very emotional,” Hansen said. “It was something that I’d wanted for my whole life.”

“That was … definitely one of the biggest highlights.”

Above all the pomp and circumstance, though, Hansen and her teammates were there to slide, of course.

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