Ask 21-year-old American luge sensation Kate Hansen whether she prefers notoriety from her Beyonce-inspired pre-race dance ritual or her 10th-place finish in singles luge, and she'll take the pragmatic approach. But it's also the honest one.
“The Beyonce thing is just like your fifteen minutes of fame, and it totally is. In two weeks, no one's going to care anymore, which is fine. … It's who I am,” – a non-stop dancer, she undoubtedly means – “I can't deny that,” she told CBSSports.com. “But it's just been interesting how people just fell in love with it.”
“It's cool to experience this kind of thing but I'm not gonna try and base a career on the Olympics just on me dancing because that's not why I did it in the beginning. If I had some grand scheme to get famous I probably would've done something a little bit more outrageous.”
While she said some people have suggested she was “showboating,” much of the reaction to Dancin' Hansen has been positive. Some athletes use the games as a platform to possibly secure sponsorships, voice their opinions or simply to increase their brand. Of those athletes, Hansen said, “They're not fooling anyone. As athletes, we know what's going on and what their motives are. That's totally fine if that's what they want to do, that's great. It's true, out of four years, this is it, for two weeks, this is what we get. The rest of the four years no one even knows what our sport is.”
So why the head-bobbing to Single Ladies?
“When I dance before sliding it just gets me really happy. It just gets me so ready to fly,” she said.
What began as a way to warm her body up after suffering a broken foot just before the Olympic trials has vaulted Hansen into one of the faces of Team USA – even if her teammate, Erin Hamlin, earned the USA's first singles luge medal in history, male or female.
“When we would go to train, I couldn't properly warm up. I couldn't run. I couldn't skip. I couldn't do anything because I had this huge boot on. What I could do was dance in place. I could stand there and I could dance, and that was the best way I could get my body moving … and I love to dance, so that wasn't a problem.”
That much is obvious to anyone who saw Hansen's pre-race routine captured by NBC's cameras (GIF via @DHM). The video quickly went viral to the point that it even reached Queen Bey herself. “Go Kate,” Beyonce wrote on facebook.
“I turned off my phone and my computer during racing, and so I didn't realize what was happening on social media. When I turned everything back on, it was like someone poured a bucket of ice on me. I was like ‘whoa, was it really that big of a deal?' But when I saw Beyonce give me a shout-out, I probably could've just died happy. That's like every girl's dream.”
Life at the Olympics hasn't slowed one bit for Hansen following her increased popularity. Interviews, media requests, day-long travel adventures, meeting athletes she's looked up to for years, hanging in the USA lounge watching her friends compete. Wash, rinse, repeat.
“Usually in your free time, you're just kinda chilling with Team USA,” a modest way for a 21-year-old California-bred, surfer-skateboarder-turned luger to say that she's stoked to be there.
“It's definitely still rolling. I wish I could just take a day to sit. I hate how casual I am about all this, like, ‘oh yeah, everyone does this.' No, I haven't thought about [the whole experience]. It probably won't hit until I leave.”
Asked about that other social media app rumored to be introducing athletes to one another, and Hansen answers in the affirmative.
“Tinder's happening for sure,” she says, jokingly, but she doesn't use it herself.
So how did Hansen and Hamlin, roommates for the last six years, celebrate Hamlin's medal? In short, they haven't.
“Interviews. People we have to talk to. This and this and this and this,” said Hansen, who cried at the flower ceremony with Hamlin's parents as she accepted the bronze. “This doesn't just happen. It's been such a long time for US luge.” (The other four US luge medals have come in the doubles discipline).
Hansen's family was in Sochi to cheer her on, but they left on Thursday, finally leaving Kate some time to reflect on her experience – that is, until Beyonce's next beat drops.