PYEONGCHANG — Thirteen was a very lucky number for Chris Mazdzer of the U.S. on the opening weekend of the 2018 Olympic Games.
Wearing bib No. 13, the 29-year-old Mazdzer won a silver medal in men’s luge at a frigid (12ºF) Alpensia Sliding Centre Sunday night. The U.S. had won five medals in luge since the sport was introduced to the Games in 1964, but none in men’s singles. The previous best for a U.S. man was fourth, by Adam Heidt in 2002 and by Tony Benshoof in 2006. Erin Hamlin became the first American to win a singles medal in the women’s event in 2014; the U.S. has four medals in doubles.
Mazdzer finished 0.026 seconds behind David Gleirscher of Austria and 0.204 ahead of Johannes Ludwig of Germany.
The leader going into the final run was two-time defending gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany, who was looking to equal the record of his countryman, George Hackl, who finished first in 1992, ’94 and ’98. But Loch, 28, shockingly and uncharacteristically, faltered on his final run to finish fifth.
Thirteen was not always so lucky for Mazdzer at the Olympics. In both 2010 and 2014, he finished 13th. But in PyeongChang, he was never lower than fifth.
The luge event is four runs, and after the first two, Mazdzer was fourth, just 0.001 seconds behind Roman Repilov of Russia. It was on his third run that Mazdzer really clinched his medal. He scorched the course, with the single best run by anyone in the competition and setting a course record, finishing in a time of 47.534 seconds, to move into second place. In the final run his time of 47.677, his second-best of the competition, was enough to land the silver.
Born in Pittsfield, Mass., Mazdzer grew up in Saranac Lake, N.Y., a 15-minute drive from the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid. He says he concentrated on luge because the lines for bobsled were longer.
There was only one man in front of him Sunday night.