Mazdzer returns home on a roll

LAKE PLACID – Saranac Lake’s Chris Mazdzer has been on a nice little roll during the past month racing at luge’s highest level.

The 24-year-old member of the United States national team is hoping to keep the solid sliding going this week on the track where he was first introduced to the sport.

The FIL World Cup tour is in Lake Placid for three days of racing that kick off today. Mazdzer wants to continue the consistency that helped him post the best result of his career last week at the World Championships in Whistler, British Columbia.

Competing in Canada, Mazdzer broke into the top 10 for the first time as a senior-level competitor with a sixth-place finish on the same track where he was 13th at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. He said stringing together two good runs got the job done, and he’d love to have the same kind of performance when Mount Van Hoevenberg hosts the men’s singles race Saturday morning.

But before Mazdzer gets that opportunity, he’ll need to be fast enough today in a one-run Nations Cup qualifying race in order to advance to the World Cup competition.

“My performance in Whistler is a good place to build from,” Mazdzer said Wednesday after finishing four training runs at Mount Van Hoevenberg. “That track is the most difficult – and it’s the fastest – and doing well gave me a good boost of confidence.

“On other tracks, I’ve had some single runs that were sixth-place runs, but I’ve backed them up with 24th- or 20th-place runs,” Mazdzer continued. “Two consistent runs has only happened to me once and that was last week, and now I’m back home hoping to do it again.”

Led by Germany, European sliders have pretty much dominated the top of the luge standings for both the men and the women, but Mazdzer said the run in Lake Placid has given them problems in the past. He said home ice may level the field a bit, but he’ll have to wait until race day to see if that holds true.

“On the tracks here and Sigulda (Latvia), the Germans seem to be a little out of their element,” Mazdzer said. “But they still have another day of training, and they are pretty good at figuring things out. Our team is really excited to be back here. I have the experience on this track, I definitely have confidence in my ability to do well, but you never know how it’s going to translate on race day.”

Mazdzer said Wednesday’s training session was tough on everybody, including himself. He didn’t even take his first run off the men’s start, instead, opting to begin at the women’s and double ramp to regain the feel of sliding on a very technical run.

“Everybody struggled today. It was such a drastic change from what we’ve been used to. It’s the coldest weather we’ve seen on the circuit this season, and this track is known for being pretty rough. Everybody was in survival mode on the bumpy ice.”

Prior to last week’s world championships, Mazdzer turned in what had been his best World Cup showing ever, a 12th-place on Jan. 13 in Oberhof, Germany. And today, and hopefully Saturday, he hopes to be even faster on a fast track.

“In 52 seconds, we’re doing 20 curves,” Mazdzer said. “It’s fast-paced all the way down. The track here is tight and technical, and when you make that first mistake, it really compounds quickly. You have to be on your game from start to finish. You really do.”