Kate Hansen's most recent races in Park City were certainly a lot more fun than the last time she raced at the Utah Olympic Park.
Back in October, Hansen broke her foot while sliding in a U.S. National Championship race at the UOP. Though she is still limping slightly, she is still sliding, and sliding well.
On Friday, Dec. 13, Hansen clinched a spot on the U.S. Olympic team two months before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
After narrowly missing a spot on the 2010 Olympic Team, Hansen was ecstatic at the finish area, celebrating with friends and family who made the trek to see her slide.
"I'm just stoked," she said. "It's a pretty fresh feeling, so I can't put it all into words. But it's a dream."
Sitting in second place after her first run, Hansen, who would finish just off the podium in fourth place, wasn't thinking about clinching an Olympic spot she wanted to win.
"I thought I was going to win I'm going to be honest," she said. "I thought I was going to pull it out, so I was way stoked. But I'm just grateful that it was a clean run and I'm in one piece."
She finished with a two-run time of 1 minute, 27.929 seconds, putting her behind two Germans and a Canadian.
After being born in La Canada, Calif., Hansen has done most of her luge training in Park City and was excited to do well on her home track.
"This is the best finish I've ever had," she said. "On my home track, it's nice to finish things up. I didn't know I had it in me.
Coming exactly two months after a broken foot, Hansen's strong performance is even more unbelievable.
"I would say it was tough just coming back initially after the broken foot," she said. "I'm not on crutches anymore, so that's great. I still get a little nervous every time I slide, because one more hit could really do it all over again."
Simply getting over the shock of breaking her foot on the track she knows like the back of her hand was difficult, too.
"This is my home track and I broke it on my very first run," she said. "I've never done anything like that, especially on this track. I can go down this track with my eyes closed. It was a really weird experience. I was ready to throw in the towel and go home."
But she didn't, and now she's an Olympian.
"I knew I needed to get back on the track so it wouldn't become a mental block for me," she said. "Fortunately, I was back on the sled two days later."
Heading into Sochi, Hansen hopes to be able to capture the magic of Park City a half a world away. But, on Friday night, she was just happy to be surrounded by the people she loves.
"I grew up here," she said. "My heart and soul is here. I feel very loved and very blessed."