Mazdzer breaks through with first podium

For Saranac Lake’s Chris Mazdzer, getting his first World Cup podium finish in Whistler, British Columbia was something he’s dreamt about for a long time.

“Really, you start at a young age building up to this,” Mazdzer told the Enterprise on Monday via phone from Park City, Utah. “It would be more like 14 years (that I’ve been) kind of waiting for this moment, anticipating it.”

Now 25 years old, Mazdzer has been competing internationally since the age of 13. He’s been on the World Cup tour since age 21.

Mazdzer said Friday’s silver medal came on a day when it was extremely cold in Whistler, which was the site of the 2010 Winter Games.

“Temperatures were anywhere from zero Fahrenheit to 10, so the ice was extremely hard,” he said. “Training went really well.”

After his training run, Mazdzer realized he could go even faster during the competition.

“I had an awesome run, felt really good, felt that I could push it more,” he said.

So Mazdzer did just that in the competition runs, to the point where he said he actually “felt out of control.”

“I was just barely holding on,” he said. “It’s kind of like a high-risk, high-reward run, and luckily I had two runs with no skids because I felt out of control the whole time.”

Mazdzer, who will compete in his second Olympic Games in two months in Sochi, Russia, stood fourth after one run, just 0.006 of a second from third place. His final heat hurtled him over Germany’s David Moeller, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist and Andi Langenhan of Germany.

Mazdzer was only topped by defending Olympic champion Felix Loch, another German. The winner had the two fastest runs of the night, posting times of 48.258 and 48.428 seconds. His total of 1 minute, 36.686 seconds was nearly 0.3 clear of Mazdzer’s 1:36.978.

“I was hoping potentially third but second was awesome,” Mazdzer said.

With the silver medal finish, Mazdzer became the first United States luge racer to score in the top three since Tony Benshoof’s World Cup bronze medal during the 2006-2007 season. The last U.S. World Cup victory was Wendel Suckow’s gold medal in the Nagano pre-Olympic test event in 1997.

Mazdzer’s first career podium came two weeks after finishing fourth and clinching a nomination to his second Olympic team. The fourth-place finish in Igls, Austria was a career best at the time.

The recent strong finishes have given Mazdzer confidence in his ability and technique. Not having to worry about making major adjustments at this stage is a big advantage for him.

“If I can put two really good runs together I can be a medal contender,” Mazdzer said. “I just really have to focus entirely on the process, clean things up. I don’t have to change so many things to try to get really fast. Right now, I’m really close. I can just do minor changes. So that should help with my consistency.”

Mazdzer returns to the ice on Saturday with a World Cup race in Park City.