After graduating from Patterson High School she decided to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Sharon, and accepted an opportunity to be a member of the row team at the University of Washington despite having no experience whatsoever rowing in high school.
Rowing may look easy enough from the sidelines, but the truth, as Hansen shared, is that the sport is very demanding.
“Rowing (requires) a lot of strength and a lot of endurance,” Hansen said of her newfound talent. “It’s a full body sport.”
The physical grind rowing requires is demanding and calls for complete body control. This level of physical demand is matched by the difficulty of working as a coordinated unit with the other rowers to gain optimal speed.
“It’s easily the hardest sport I have ever competed in,” Hansen said of the challenge, despite playing a plethora of other games.
Hansen knows the price of the physical demand of rowing as well. During her freshmen year in 2012 Hansen suffered a setback after tearing her meniscus. To add to the challenge, on February 19, 2013, Hansen required knee surgery that sidelined her from rowing during the season.
Hansen then spent the entire summer rehabbing her knee.
None of this slowed Hansen down. She returned to the novice team in September of last year and enjoyed the fruits of her labor with even more success at the University of Washington on the Women’s Novice Eight team, recently winning a Pacific-12 Championship.
What makes Hansen’s success that much more special was her ability to overcome these obstacles while living with Erb’s Palsy, a condition most often occurring at birth that leads to partial or complete paralysis in an arm.
On May 18 this year, the University of Washington Huskies traveled to Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif. to compete for the Pacific-12 Rowing Championships. The Novice Eight Huskies, now including Hansen, had high expectations since they won the previous year, and wished to capture the title once more.
The first two of four heats of the race were hotly contested. The University of California, Los Angeles Bruins boat was right on the heels of the University of Washington, finishing within tenths of seconds behind the Huskies.
The Novice Huskie boat endured the Bruins pressure and didn’t waver, replicating their swift pace from the first two heats. They were able to hold off the Bruins in the last two heats of the race to capture the Pac-12 Women’s Novice Eight crown.
The Washington Huskies finished with a total time of 6:49.8, outdueling the UCLA Bruins with an overall finish time of 6:54.8 on the morning waters of Lake Natoma. The strong showing from the Women’s Novice boat helped propel the University of Washington Women’s rowing team to an overall team score of 35.5 points. This score was good enough to earn a second-place finish behind the first-place overall team finish, Stanford University, who finished with an overall score of 44.5 points.
Rowing is a synchronized team effort that requires coordination and discipline. The person in charge of keeping the tempo of the boat is the coxswain. The coxswain communicates instructions on how to steer and coordinate the rhythm and power of the boat down to each rower.
Hansen noted that the team practices daily with chemistry because “every movement is replicated by each person in front of you and behind.”
This replication can only be ingrained in the athletes through daily training. They must act in unison if they hope to succeed, or else failure is a certainty.
Hansen said that practice is often spent just rowing together on the water. In order to acquire this type of synchronization, the rowing team practices daily on “a lot of technique training and practice with water racing,” said Hansen.
Just sitting on an already accomplished resume is not Hansen’s style, as she now hopes to take on the biggest challenge in her athletic career.
Hansen now looks to take her success at the University of Washington rowing team across the United States to Boston, where she will begin practicing as a member of the U.S.A para-rowing team.
Hansen has just recently been officially classified as a Paralympic rower and now has her sights set on the next level of her athletic career. Hansen has earned a trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands on August 24 for the World Rowing Championships, but that would just be a first step towards her ultimate plan.
“My main goal is to compete in the 2016 Paralympics,” Hansen said.
Flying across the states to Boston isn’t cheap, and would not be possible without the support from her family and the local community. Along with the help of her family, Dr. Latorre, Bruce Thompson, Ron and Roseanne Forener, and the Lions Club all helped pitch in to send Hansen to Boston and help her realize her ultimate goal of competing for her country as a Paralympic athlete.
Contact Erick Torres at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org.