But Hansen changed Team USA’s momentum heading into the games, as, along the way to Sochi, the La Cañada High graduate made history on Saturday in Sigulda, Latvia.
[UPDATED: Jan. 29, 2014 at 1:17 p.m.]
For the first time since 1997, an American won a World Cup singles race, with Hansen posting a winning time of 1 minute 23.976 seconds over her two runs on Saturday in Sigulda.
“It was more of a surprise than anything else. Never in my dreams did I think I would ever medal in a World Cup, yet alone win,” Hansen told the Valley Sun via email on Tuesday. “I was definitely stoked, but just more in a daze because I couldn't believe it. I still can't and it probably won't hit me for awhile.”
Hansen trailed Canada’s Alex Gough after the first run, but the former Spartan took the lead with a Sigulda track record run on her final leg. Her first run was 42.089 seconds before clocking 41.887 to end the day victoriously.
“During the run I wasn't thinking [about] it cause there is so much going on in a little amount of time,” Hansen emailed, “but when I crossed the finish, I realized that I had just thrown down.”
Gough (1:24.052) took second, 0.076 seconds behind Hansen with Natalia Khoreva taking third (1:24.155) and Hansen’s U.S. teammate Erin Hamlin took fourth (1:24.316). Team USA’s other slider and its third prospective Olympian with Hansen and Hamlin, Summer Britcher (1:24.629), finished 12th.
The significance of Hansen’s finish extended past the numbers she put forth on the course to those that accompanied the historic measure of her gold.
In addition to becoming the first American to win a singles World Cup since 1997, Hansen’s World Cup victory was the first of any kind for the U.S. since a men’s doubles gold in 1998. And, it was the first for the United States in a major international race since Hamlin claimed the world championship in 2009.
“This is a momentous occasion,” USA Luge spokesman Sandy Caligiore told the AP.
Hansen and Co. are now set for the Olympic Games, as opening ceremonies commence Feb. 7 and the luge is set to run on Feb. 8. Hansen and the women’s luge will start Feb. 10.
Whether or not Hansen’s run to glory on Saturday will carry some positive momentum remains to be seen, of course.
No matter, Hansen has already raced her way to one very memorable moment in the winter of 2014.
“It was interesting because my mindset was totally different last weekend,” Hansen emailed. “I had so much going on at the time that I wasn't even focused on the track really, I kinda had the mindset, 'OK lets get this over with.' With that mindset, though, it came down to pure instinct and reaction and that is when I slide my best. When I'm not thinking and I have nothing to lose, that's when I'm fast.”