Chris Mazdzer competes in the men's singles luge at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 10, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
There was no mistaking U.S. luge star Chris Mazdzer’s Olympic game face Saturday. It was the opening two heats of the men’s singles luge competition at the Olympic Sliding Centre, and Mazdzer was not going to crack a smile.
He reserved his big display of emotion for the end of the second heat, when he knew he put himself in medal contention at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. He sits in fourth place, 0.218 seconds off the lead held by defending Olympic champion Felix Loch of Germany. The top of the field, heading into Sunday’s final two runs, has Austria’s David Gleirscher in second, while Roman Repilov, an Olympic Athlete from Russia, is third.
Americans Tucker West and Taylor Morris will also slide Sunday. West sits in 18th, while Morris is in 23rd.
Mazdzer, who hails from Saranac Lake, New York and is at his third Games, set himself up to possibly win his first Olympic medal – and the first for the U.S. in men’s singles. He was in fifth after the first run, at 48.075.
The second run, the one with the super serious game face, was where he separated himself from the field. He reached speeds of 81.3 mph, and perfectly navigated the curves.
At the finish, Mazdzer looked up, smiled and pumped his fist when he saw the blazing time of 47.717. He knew his run was special, as only Loch had been faster in heat two. Mazdzer moved into fourth and increased his medal hopes.
He got off his sled, moved to the apron area, and again pumped his fist and smiled. The American fans in the stands, some of which were holding up giant cutouts of Mazdzer’s head, responded by cheering louder. He slid over to them to wave and shimmy in joy, and even blew a kiss toward the TV camera.
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for The New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.