Kate Hansen retires from luge, eyes Running of the Bulls

Kate Hansen
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The last luge competition of Kate Hansen‘s career came at the Sochi Olympics. The one before that, she became the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup race in 17 years.

Not a bad way to go out.

Hansen has retired and will not attempt an Olympic encore in two years.

“I won’t go back to [competing in] luge,” Hansen said in a phone interview, coming to a firm decision the last several months. “As much as I miss my team, I miss my people, I miss traveling, I’m just feeling good about where my life’s at. I’m feeling fulfilled in a lot of different ways.”

She may be done speeding down an icy chute at 80 miles per hour, but she’s not done challenging herself. Hansen’s bucket list includes a trip to Pamplona, Spain, next year to participate in the Running of the Bulls.

She placed 10th in Sochi while also gaining fame for her warm-up dance routine while listening to Beyoncé and pranking the world with her wolf-in-the-athletes-village video.

“I never cared if I won or lost; I never cared about racing,” Hansen said. “Results, like they got me through the day-by-day, but my favorite part was being able to travel the world and make best friends all over.”

She’s still involved in the sport. Hansen will be the analyst on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra‘s broadcast of the World Luge Championships on Thursday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET.

“It’s really cool to use my craft that I’ve been working on half my life in a setting outside of competition,” Hansen said. “To still be a part of it is really fulfilling.”

Hansen, 23, sat out the last two seasons to concentrate on studying public relations and business at BYU (and backpack around Europe, Ecuador and Peru). She’s one year from her degree.

On March 27, 2014, Hansen was sought out by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ social media while attending a game to perform on their Dance Cam.

One month later, she threw out a ceremonial first pitch at a Dodgers game, met the right people and was offered a job with the club.

“Stars aligned,” Hansen said. “I would’ve never been able to take that job if I had been training.”

Hansen carries a microphone to help with an on-field pre-game show and in-game promotions (as she does at BYU). It helped her re-connect last summer with Jimmy Kimmel, with whom she pulled off the wolf-video prank in Sochi.

She hopes to be offered an ESPN internship for this summer after finding a delicate way to include her viral Sochi fame on her application.

“I embarrassed myself in front of the whole world,” she joked. “I definitely don’t lead with that.”

Hansen is also working on checking items off her bucket list, such as fixing up a motorcycle, reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s five books and wearing hoop earrings.

Hansen and her older sister plan to celebrate their birthdays in 2017 with a trip to Spain. They’re inviting anybody who wants to join them in the Running of the Bulls.

“I feel like after I went to the Olympics, if I have enough confidence, I can do anything,” Hansen said.

MORE: Update on every U.S. Olympic medalist from Sochi, two years from Pyeongchang

Wolfgate 2014

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Mikaela Shiffrin wins 85th World Cup, can tie overall record Sunday

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Mikaela Shiffrin earned her 85th World Cup win on Saturday and can tie the Alpine skiing World Cup victories record on Sunday.

Shiffrin won the first of back-to-back slaloms in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, site of her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15, for her 11th victory in 22 starts this season.

She prevailed by six tenths of a second over German Lena Duerr combining times from two runs. Then she celebrated with an uncharacteristic shoulder shimmy before “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner began playing over loudspeakers in the finish area.

It’s not the first time that song has been played after a Shiffrin victory this season.

“I knew it would take some risk,” she said. “There’s a chance I don’t finish at all.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Shiffrin, having her best season since her record 17-win campaign in 2018-19, is now one victory shy of the Alpine World Cup record held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark, who won 86 times between slalom and giant slalom in the 1970s and ’80s.

Stenmark has held the record since January 1982.

Shiffrin races in another slalom on Sunday in Spindleruv Mlyn, the last women’s race before February’s world championships. World championships races do not count as World Cups. The World Cup season resumes following worlds in late February.

Shiffrin is on her second winning streak this season and has won nine of her last 14 races dating to Dec. 18. Last Tuesday, she won a giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, to break her tie with Lindsey Vonn for the women’s Alpine World Cup wins record. On Wednesday, she won another GS In Kronplatz.

She leads the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, by more than 600 points through 27 of 39 scheduled races. At this rate, she could clinch her fifth overall title before March’s World Cup Finals.

She is currently tied with Vonn for the second-most women’s overall titles behind Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who won five in the 1970s.

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Aryna Sabalenka wins Australian Open for first Grand Slam singles title

Aryna Sabalenka Australian Open 2023
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Aryna Sabalenka won her first Grand Slam title by coming back to beat Elena Rybakina 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Australian Open women’s final Saturday.

The 24-year-old Sabalenka, who is from Belarus, was appearing in her first major final.

She improved to 11-0 in 2023, and the only set she has dropped all season was the opener on Saturday against Wimbledon champion Rybakina.

But Sabalenka turned things around with an aggressive style that resulted in 51 winners, 20 more than her opponent. She used 17 aces to overcome seven double-faults. And she managed to break the big-serving Rybakina three times, the last coming for a 4-3 lead in the third set that she never relinquished.

Still, Sabalenka needed to work for the championship while serving in what would be the last game, double-faulting on her initial match point and requiring three more to close things out.

When Rybakina sent a forehand long to cap the final after nearly 2 1/2 hours, Sabalenka dropped to her back on the court and stayed down for a bit, covering her face as her eyes welled with tears.

Sabalenka is a powerful player whose most glowing strength was also her most glaring shortfall: her serve. Long capable of hammering aces, she also had a well-known problem with double-faulting, leading the tour in that category last year with nearly 400, including more than 20 apiece in some matches.

After much prodding from her team, she finally agreed to undergo an overhaul of her serving mechanics last August. That, along with a commitment to trying to stay calm in the most high-pressure moments, is really paying off now.

Sabalenka was 0-3 in Grand Slam semifinals until eliminating Magda Linette in Melbourne. Now Sabalenka has done one better and will rise to No. 2 in the rankings.

As seagulls were squawking loudly while flying overhead at Rod Laver Arena, Rybakina and Sabalenka traded booming serves. Rybakina’s fastest arrived at 121 mph, Sabalenka’s at 119 mph. They traded zooming groundstrokes from the baseline, often untouchable, resulting in winner after winner.

The key statistic, ultimately, was this: Sabalenka accumulated 13 break points, Rybakina seven. And although Sabalenka converted just a trio of them, that was enough, and the constant pressure she managed to apply during Rybakina’s service games had to take a toll.

Sabalenka had been broken just six times in 55 service games through the course of these two weeks, an average of once per match. It took Rybakina fewer than 10 minutes of action and all of two receiving games to get the measure of things and lead 2-1, helped by getting back one serve that arrived at 117 mph (189 kph).

A few games later, Sabalenka returned the favor, also putting her racket on one of Rybakina’s offerings at that same speed. Then, when Sabalenka grooved a down-the-line backhand passing winner to grab her first break and pull even at 4-all, she looked at her coach and fitness coach in the stands, raised a fist and shouted.

In the next game, though, Sabalenka gave that right back, double-faulting twice — including on break point — to give Rybakina a 5-4 edge. This time, Sabalenka again turned toward her entourage, but with a sigh and an eye roll and arms extended, as if to say, “Can you believe it?”

Soon after, Rybakina held at love to own that set.

Sabalenka changed the momentum right from the get-go in the second set. Aggressively attacking, she broke to go up 3-1, held for 4-1 and eventually served it out, fittingly, with an ace — on a second serve, no less.

Sabalenka acknowledged ahead of time that she expected to be nervous. Which makes perfect sense: This was the most important match of her career to date.

And if those jitters were evident ever-so-briefly early — she double-faulted on the evening’s very first point — and appeared to be resurfacing as the end neared, Sabalenka controlled them well enough to finish the job.

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