The “Dancing Olympian” is back at the Games, but this time, instead of sliding feet first on a tiny sled down an icy track at 80 miles per hour, Kate Hansen is sitting in a booth for hours at a time, doing television commentating for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Hansen, a member of the Santa Monica YSA Ward in the Los Angeles California Santa Monica Stake, is a California native who grew up surfing but at age 11 fell in love with the winter sliding sport called luge — becoming the youngest American woman to win the junior luge World Championship, at age 15 in 2008, and earning a top 10 finish in luge at the 2014 Sochi Games.
TV audiences fell in love with her pre-race warm up dance routines in February 2014. Hansen had a long road to those Olympics. She had injured her foot the previous October, and running or walking gave her trouble, so she danced. And she kept dancing.
She even set the record straight in a Team USA blog post after Sochi — it is OK for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to dance.
So is she dancing in Beijing this week? Yes.
“Dancing helps calm my soul,” she told the Church News this week over the phone. “Before I get into the broadcast booth for my first race, I’ll probably go into the corner and put on some music. It’s how I reconnect with myself.”
The path to the Beijing Olympics
Hansen retired from luge after the 2014 Olympics and her No. 10 finish. The competition before that, she was the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup race in 17 years.
She went back to Brigham Young University to finish her degree in public relations and business, and lived in California over the summers. Doors started to open in sports broadcasting. The Los Angeles Dodgers invited her to throw the first pitch in a baseball game in April 2014 — she did a little dancing again — and the crowd loved it. That’s how she got a job in fan engagement at Dodger Stadium. Then BYU called and she did promotions on the field for multiple sports with the Cougars during the school year. NBC was next to reach out, and now she’s at the Olympics again.
“These opportunities came up, and I went with it and I just enjoy it,” she said.
Hansen spends a lot of time in a tiny booth in the broadcast center in Beijing. She is commentating for the three sliding sports — luge, bobsled and skeleton — as part of the Olympic Broadcast Services team. The broadcast feed is sent to 180 countries.
Hansen is surrounded by other broadcasters in Beijing with many years of experience and several Olympic games under their belts. “It’s a new level of commentating I haven’t done before. Sports commentating is conversational, but this has more of a format and rules,” she explained.
She also has to follow the COVID-19 rules and procedures surrounding the Games. She is tested for COVID-19 every day and takes security buses from the hotel to the broadcast center. That means she cannot leave the closed loop system of where she sleeps, eats and works.
Sharing the gospel at the Olympics
While she is in Beijing, Hansen is getting help from another member of her ward back home with her calling (she helps the bishopric with scheduling). She has spoken about her faith on social media and in interviews, but she explained this week that how she related to the gospel as a competitor is different than what her life is becoming post-competition. She is trying to become more intentional now, she explained.
Over those years of traveling and competing, she had missionary moments. For example, in Sochi, Hansen met an engineer for the Russian luge team. The Deseret News reported how the man later told Hansen he felt there was something different about her. He found out she was a member of the Church, and started learning more about it and was baptized.
For Olympian Kate Hansen, luge is more than just an athletic endeavor; it’s a missionary opportunity
“I feel like when I’m working or traveling, I think anything is possible,” she said. “When you send out goodness, you attract goodness.”
Embracing the struggle
Hansen gave a talk at BYU in 2016 called, “How failure got me to the Olympics.” She spoke about coming back from the setback of her foot injury, and how to overcome mind games and self-doubts.
“It’s never about the end game … it’s about embracing the struggle and not running from what’s hard,” she said in that speech.
This knowledge and attitude gives her a greater understanding of what the Olympians in Beijing have gone through on the way to the Games, and what they face in the competition. But seeing the Olympics from the other side makes her grateful to not be competing anymore, she said. Now she can enjoy the Games without the pressure of participating.
“I’m now surrounded by the best in my industry with people from all over the world so it’s great to still be in the Olympic energy but pursuing something that I know has no end.”
The Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, are Feb. 4-20, 2022, and the Paralympics, March 4-13.