MAZDZER WINS HISTORIC OLYMPIC SILVER MEDAL
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – In a 15 minute period that displayed the best of Olympic racing, Chris Mazdzer brought USA Luge its long-awaited men’s Olympic medal Sunday night when he scored the silver at the Alpensia Sliding Centre.
“This feels like 18 years in the making,” said the three-time Olympian. “This is what you go to bed thinking about sometimes, to put it together on some of the most difficult conditions and be the first U.S. man to win an Olympic medal. It hasn’t set in. I can’t process all of that. I’ve just been having fun the last week.”
On another night with cold, hard ice conditions, Mazdzer started the night in fourth place after two runs. He turned up the heat with a track record third run that put him in second place, but a distant 0.19 of a second from three run leader Felix Loch of Germany, and just 0.02 in front of Austrian first run leader, David Gleirscher.
The final heat illustrated what can happen on a neutral track that contains just enough quirks to contribute to a dramatic distribution of Olympic medals. The balance was such that four different athletes had the fastest heats of each run.
“Coming in, the ice temps are dropping. It’s getting colder,” added the Saranac Lake, N.Y. resident. “I knew that I had it. I don’t know. It was a weird thing. I was at piece with myself. I looked at the ice and was excited, not nervous at all. I think that really helped me have that great third run.”
Gleirscher hurtled both Mazdzer and Loch, shocking all onlookers with the gold medal time of 3 minutes, 10.702 seconds.
Mazdzer claimed a track record in the third heat, only to be lowered by Italy’s Dominik Fischnaller in the fourth, as the Italian staged a rally that saw him finish only 0.002 from the podium.
Mazdzer’s silver medal time was 3:10.728 seconds, with another surprise, Germany’s Johannes Ludwig a surprise bronze medalist in 3:10.932.
“I’d always been confident with my sliding, it’s just that the results hadn’t been there,” continued Mazdzer. “I’ve had really good starts and really good sliding. It just took the conditions to be right. These conditions are so cold, it really played into my comfort zone, which is out of control and having fun.”
Loch became only the third luger in history to not win the Olympic gold medal when leading at the halfway point. It looked like the race was his, but he got snagged in curves eight and nine in the finale, and went to the wall. The 2010 and 2014 Olympic champion came up the outrun to a stop holding his head in his hands, consoled by his father and coach Norbert Loch, with the realization that his third straight Olympic title had slipped his grasp.
Meanwhile, Gleirscher went from barely making the Austrian Olympic team to 2018 gold medal winner in a matter of a few weeks. He came through in 3:10.702.
“I knew I was fast, but I didn’t know I was that fast,” remarked Gleirscher, whose father Gerhard Gleirscher won a World Championship bronze medal in 1997.
Taylor Morris, of South Jordan, Utah, finished 18th in his first Olympic appearance, while Tucker West, of Ridgefield, Conn. took 26th.
Both remained engaged at the venue, extolling their teammate to the organization’s first men’s Olympic medal, which came on the heels of Erin Hamlin’s election to carry the flag in the Opening Ceremony.
The Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games are now off to a rousing start for the American squad, which transitions to the women’s singles race on Monday and Tuesday nights, at 7:50 PM and 7:30 PM KT, respectively.
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