Kate Hansen snapped a 17-year drought for American women lugers, winning the World Cup finale in Sigulda, Latvia, on Saturday.
Hansen, 21, beat a field lacking the top three Germans with a two-run time of 1 minute, 23.976 seconds. She edged Canadian Alex Gough by .076. Russian Natalia Khoreva was third, followed by American Erin Hamlin.
Hansen, set to make her Olympic debut in Sochi, made the World Cup podium for the first time in her young career. It marked the biggest international victory for a U.S. luger since Erin Hamlin‘s World Championship in 2009.
“Of course it’s a great surprise for me,” Hansen said, according to The Associated Press. “I’ve never dreamed of winning the event.”
The last U.S. woman to win a World Cup race was Cammy Myler in November 1997, also in Sigulda.
Hansen kept Germany from sweeping all nine races this season. The powerful sliding nation did not enter its top three women in Sigulda — Olympic gold- and silver-medal favorites Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Hufner and Anke Wischnewski.
What a bookend to the World Cup season it was for Hansen. She had the fastest run in the first heat of the first World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway, in November, but was 22nd fastest in the second run to tumble to 12th place.
The women’s luge competition in Sochi is Feb. 10-11.
“I don’t know if the pressure with regard to the upcoming Olympic Games will be greater now,” Hansen said, according to the AP. “It’s a good question. But we’ll see.”