USA Luge Mazdzer finishes 7th...

Mazdzer finishes 7th in speedy Sigulda; Ranked 5th in final World Cup rankings

Jan. 26, 2014, 1:31 p.m. (ET)

Chris Mazdzer of the United States reacts after the men's race at the Luge World Cup event in Sigulda, Latvia, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov, F64)

SIGULDA, Latvia – On the final day of the World Cup luge season Sunday, American Chris Mazdzer capped his career-best season with a seventh place effort in the men’s singles race in Sigulda.

Mazdzer, nominated to his second Olympic team next month in Sochi, finished the nine-race World Cup campaign ranked a team high fifth with 412 overall points, his best year to date.

“To be honest it’s hard to summarize my season,” reflected Mazdzer. “Before this season I only had one World Cup finish that was a top 10 and that was on my home track in Lake Placid. This year, to have five top 10s and two medals, I’m pumped about that. And to be ranked fifth overall is a huge honor. You have so many good guys out there. You have Armin Zoeggeler, Albert Demchenko, Felix Loch, Dominick Fischnaller and who’s the fifth guy? Oh it’s Chris Mazdzer. Who’s Chris Mazdzer? So I’m ecstatic over that.”

The Saranac Lake, N.Y. racer rocketed down the track twice on a cold day that Latvian sliders said was the fastest Sigulda ice they had ever seen. Mazdzer’s two heats totaled 1 minute, 36.567 seconds.

“I was not expecting to do so well. Training was pretty difficult for me,” he continued. “The track was in amazing condition. The track record was broken by half a second. The Latvians said it was the fastest they’d ever seen it. I lost my head, meaning the pressure pushed my head back to the ice so hard in curve 15 I had to close my eyes it hurt so bad. In the second run I couldn’t keep my head up anywhere, it was so fast. There was so much pressure (in the corners). The ice was so hard.”He finished .65 of a second behind the winner, Zoeggeler, of Italy. The 40 year old, a two-time World Cup winner this year, is headed to Sochi as his country’s flagbearer. 

In his sixth Games appearance, Zoeggeler will hope to add to his career total of two Olympic gold medals, one silver and two bronze.Zoeggeler had runs of 47.969 and a track record 47.944 seconds, for an aggregate time of 1:35.913 in winning for the 57th time on the World Cup. He concluded the year second in World Cup points with 595, and placed behind Germany’s overall champion Felix Loch, who skipped the race along with teammates David Moeller and Andi Langenhan.

German Johannes Ludwig, faster than Zoeggeler at the start of each heat by .10 and .14 of a second, respectively, was no match for the Italian. Ludwig finished in a time of 1:36.019, followed by the next Zoeggeler, Dominick Fischnaller, also of Italy, in 1:36.226.

Mazdzer was the lone USA Luge athlete entered as Tucker West and Aidan Kelly, both nominated to the Sochi Winter Games, went to the Junior World Cup event in Oberhof, Germany to prepare for the Junior World Championships on Friday and Saturday in Igls, Austria. They will also be joined in Igls by Olympic nominee Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa.

U.S. juniors claimed three medals in Oberhof, led by West. The Ridgefield, Conn. competitor scored a bronze in junior men’s singles, and was a member of the U.S. foursome that claimed silver in the team competition.

Kelly was 11th in the same junior men’s race. Riley Stohr of Whitehall, Mich. raced to a silver medal in youth men, finishing just .001 of a second behind Austrian winner Nico Gleirscher.

The remaining seven members of the U.S. Olympic squad are now headed to LaPlagne, France for a camp at the site of the 1992 Olympic luge events.

“I think we have good momentum headed to the Olympics,” said Mark Grimmette, double Olympic medal winner, 2010 U.S. flagbearer and Sport Program Director for USA Luge. “We’ll use those few days in LaPlagne to fine-tune our equipment and make sure we’re prepared for the conditions we’ll see in Sochi.”

Upon arrival at the site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the six singles athletes will begin training on Feb. 4 at 8 AM in the Caucasus Mountains above the coastal city of Sochi. The Olympic singles events begin Feb. 8.U.S. doubles teams will arrive later in the week as their competition is slated for Feb. 12.  The Opening Ceremony in Sochi takes place in Fischt Olympic Stadium, named after Mount Fischt, on Feb. 7.

Complete men’s singles results

Interview with Chris Mazdzer