December 7, 2022

The pressure is strong for American sledgers | News, Sports, Jobs


USA Luge doubles partners Chris Mazdzer, left, and Jayson Terdiman pose at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid during a World Cup race in November 2019. (Company photo – Andy Flynn)

SARANAC LAKE – Chris Mazdzer decided to make his life difficult after winning an Olympic silver medal in luge in 2018: he teamed up with his former junior doubles partner Jayson Terdiman while continuing to run on his own.

Singles races are tough enough. Mazdzer, who grew up in Saranac Lake and whose parents still live here, had a frustrating 2017-18 season and rebuilt his sled just ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It worked. He won the first ever Olympic medal for an American man in singles luge.

Now he is trying to compete in his fourth Olympics in doubles and singles. By no means is that a sure thing, but if he qualifies for both, he would be the first for the United States since Wendel Suckow in 1992. If he also competes in the team relay event, it would be an all-time first.

In addition to multitasking, 33-year-old Mazdzer is a new dad. In April, he and his wife Mara welcomed their son Nicolai, nicknamed “Nico.” They live in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“Chris has always been someone with a million things on his plate, so adding a whole other life form into the mix hasn’t been a huge change for him.” Terdiman said on a recent call with reporters, showing his wry humor. “But I feel like it anchored Chris a bit, in a great way.”

Terdiman, who just turned 33, faces his own milestone. The Pennsylvania native, who now lives in Lake Placid, plans to retire after the Olympics, which if he qualifies would be his third, along with his third partner. He told reporters his body is not recovering as quickly as it did before surgeries and injuries. He hopes to work for USA Luge in the future, and officials say they would like it to work.

Race to qualify

After a vacation break, the US luge team is back in Europe. This is the critical moment. Races this weekend and next year – in Winterburg, Germany, and Sigulda, Latvia, respectively – will determine who competes in February at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. USA Luge officials expect these Olympians to be announced on January 10; their list will be sent to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee for approval.

In men’s singles, Jonny Gustafson of Massena and Tucker West of Connecticut achieved level C, the lowest of three qualification levels. Mazdzer hasn’t leveled yet. Gustafson is currently ranked 19th, West 22nd and Mazdzer 25th in the World Cup standings.

None of the three men’s doubles teams has yet reached a level. Mazdzer and Terdiman are ranked 12th in the World Cup standings, Sean Hollander of Lake Placid and Zach DiGregorio of Massachusetts are ranked 21st, and Duncan Segger of Lake Placid and Dana Kellogg of Massachusetts are ranked 26th.

Earning a level does not guarantee a trip to the games. The United States may have a maximum of three men’s singles riders and two doubles teams at the Olympics, but the men’s and doubles teams need to improve their performance over the next two weekends to avoid losing a berth in each discipline, according to USA Luge spokesperson Sandy Caligiore. . If they don’t, one of the three singles runners could be pushed around, and Mazdzer is down right now. For doubles, that would mean two teams would miss the cup instead of one.

“The double is like a marriage”

In 2018, as Mazdzer celebrated a whirlwind of glory after the medal with a TV show “Dancing with the stars,” Terdiman’s second Olympic doubles partner, Matt Mortensen, has retired with back pain. It was “a kind of blow” Terdiman said during the media call, but Mazdzer then agreed to team up with him again.

“The double is like a marriage” Terdiman joked. “I divorced twice, for the third time. And like in any relationship, there are give and take.

He said that Christian Niccum, his partner at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, believes in letting the sled do most of the work, which helps increase speed but also makes crashes more probable. Mortensen, on the other hand, was a “Line guy” who was specific on how to get in and out of each curve. Mazdzer is a mixture of the two.

“Chris loves to let the sled run, but he also likes to be very precise on the lines” Terdiman said.

“The biggest difference between child Chris and adult Chris is around 20 kg. “ Terdiman said of the muscle mass Mazdzer gained, but, “He’s still the same guy… very funny.” … I weigh maybe 5 pounds more than when we were teenagers.

Their start to the season was slowed down by Mazdzer who broke his foot during the preseason, but Terdiman said he believes they can do well at the Olympics, if they qualify.

He still describes himself as an adrenaline junkie, telling luge officials, “They’re feeding you this addiction very slowly, to hang on to you, and then by the time you’re old enough to realize that what you’re doing has consequences, it’s too late.” You’re already in love with that feeling and rushing, and nothing else – you know, I jumped off a perfectly good plane, I own a crotch (motorcycle) rocket – nothing gives you that feeling that the sledge does. And so we’re all just a bunch of big kids all day long, ultimate sledding.

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