Erin Hamlin did it four years ago when she won bronze in women's singles luge. Today, it was Chris Mazdzer’s turn. Mazdzer put together two phenomenal runs to climb from fourth to third in runs 3 and 4 to win the silver medal in men’s singles luge -- the first men’s singles luge medal in U.S. history. He ended a 54-year drought for Team USA.
Mazdzer, the 29-year-old from Pittsfield, Mass., finished behind Austria's David Gleirscher, who won a shocking gold as Germany's Felix Loch faltered in his final run. You can see the full results here.
"It's 16 years in the making," Mazdzer told NBC's Lewis Johnson after winning silver. "I've had a rough last two years, and it just shows: Don't ever give up. Whenever you lose, keep fighting. "
In his third Winter Games, he finished 13th in 2010 and 2014, Mazdzer broke through with the performance he had been searching for on the world’s biggest stage. In fifth place after Run 1, he had the second fastest run of all competitors on Run 2 to jump into fourth place -- and he was only 0.001 second behind Roman Repilov, an Olympic Athlete from Russia.
Repilov faltered on his third run, creating an opening for Mazdzer, who took advantage in a big way. Mazdzer broke the course record Loch had set moments earlier to vault into second place, putting together a flawless run. He conquered the infamous ninth curve with ease to put himself into perfect position for a medal.
Heading into the fourth and final run, he was in the right state of mind. “I’m gonna go up there with the same mentality,” Mazdzer told NBC’s Lewis Johnson after his third run, “Have fun and throw down.”
Then, when he needed it most, Mazdzer delivered in his fourth run. He shot out of the starting gate and barreled down the course, sliding flawlessly down the hill. Gleirscher was faster, but Mazdzer finished in that coveted medal position.
Mazdzer, who describes himself as a goofball who knows how to flip the switch to serious when he needs, beamed after crossing the finish line. The highest an American had finished in men's luge singles before today was fourth.
Mazdzer’s U.S. teammates didn’t fare quite as well. Tucker West finished 26th and Taylor Morris finished 18th.
All told, it was an historic day for the U.S. luge team. Mazdzer’s medal was the Team USA’s sixth all time in the luge, which was introduced to the Winter Games in 1964. And when it comes to men’s singles luge, Mazdzer will always be the first.
It meant even more for Mazdzer given where he was less than a month ago. In a Facebook post he detailed his struggles as he neared the Olympics. Even then, however, he was pushing on. "There is a light somewhere," Mazdzer wrote in the post, "in this dark cave that I feel like I am stumbling aimlessly through at times and you better damn believe I’m going to find it." Find it he did.