Three-time Olympian Chris Mazdzer made luge history in 2018, becoming the first American man to win a medal in singles -- and the first non-European to do so. Now qualified for his fourth Games, Mazdzer looks to repeat as a singles medalist at the 2022 Winter Olympics after barely missing an opportunity to compete in doubles.
Mazdzer broke his foot on a training run in September 2021. He joined the World Cup circuit shortly thereafter, however, and managed to simultaneously recover and compete.
As part of our preparation for the 2022 Winter Games, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to multiple athletes to learn more about their lives both inside and outside of sports. Here’s what we found out about Mazdzer.
Tell us about your family.
I’ve been married to my wife Mara for a little over a year and we are expecting our first child Nico at the end of April [Nico was born in April 2021]. My parents live in Saranac Lake, New York, which is where I grew up and I have two younger sisters who are fraternal twins.
How influential were your parents in your athletic career?
My parents played an integral part in my athletic career because they provided me the opportunity and allowed me to leave home at the age of 13 to travel to Europe essentially with a bunch of strangers. I am sure it was such a tough decision on their part, but it ended up being the reason that I was able to develop into such a slightly above average luge athlete!
How has your hometown shaped who you are today?
Oh man, Saranac Lake and the Olympic Region of New York State greatly shaped who I was and definitely helped me reach my potential within my sport. I am going to make up a few stats, but I firmly believe that over the last few winter Olympics, if you were to draw a 40-mile circle around Saranac Lake, it would have the highest number of competing Winter Olympians per capita than anywhere else in the United States.
As a kid, seeing all of these amazing athletes really helps motivate you and also helps you understand that what it really takes is hard work. Olympians are not these mythical figures, they are just people who decide to do extraordinary things... I believe seeing this at a young age helped push me to become who I am today.
Describe a typical training day.
My day changes depending on "off-season," "pre-season" and "season-season."
The hardest thing during the season is that my schedule changes every single day depending on my training schedule that is dictated and changes from the international federation. There are four training sessions throughout the day and because I do both singles and doubles I will be at the track for at least half the day.
Sometimes training starts at 8 a.m. and usually the last session starts at 4-5 p.m. The sessions last 2-2.5 hours and I get there an hour early to warm up and get ready. That means I am traveling to the track and at the track for about 5-7 hours a day. I then have to have 3-4 meals, and I need to work on my sled. We don’t have wax technicians like the ski team and I will work on 1-2 sleds a day, sometimes 20 minutes but sometimes it can be 2-3 hours if I need to make serious changes.
Then somedays I need to do my workouts to maintain strength through the season. There are days I wake up at 6 a.m. and do not finish until after 7 or 8 p.m. with just luge-related things... This last season we finished off with three weeks straight where I slid Tuesday through Sunday and my only day off was a travel day that requires packing up all of our equipment and moving it to and setting up at another location (it’s not really an off day) ... The season is tough on the body. I think that this might be one of the reasons that I am the only athlete in the world who competes in both singles and doubles at the World Cup level.
What is your favorite workout?
I mean, I love sliding down tracks at 80+ MPH. I would say that it is my medicine. I was diagnosed with ADHD at 4 and it was reconfirmed at 5, 6, and 7... When I am going down the track, it is the only moment of my day where I am focused on a singular task and it feels so good. Otherwise, I enjoy weight training and also cross-training and developing my full body coordination with hobbies like mountain biking, rock climbing, canyoneering and street luge when I can find road that is quiet and steep.
What’s the most grueling workout you’ve ever done?
I like to train out of SLC Crossfit because there is a group of four 40+ athletes. Two guys and two girls and they are insanely fit. I love trying to keep up with them during workouts because if I can keep up with them, I know that I have just given my all. They also motivate me because at over 40, they are in the best shape of their lives and it’s all because they are regimented and give 100% every day. I've thrown up trying to push my limits with them.
Anything surprising about training for the Olympics?
That singles and doubles luge are really so drastically different with how the sleds react and drive. The singles sled has a lot of control and I drive this sled with stability that I create coming from my shoulders and upper body. I compare the singles sled to a sports car.
In doubles, I am the top man and I am sitting on a seat, strapped to the sled. I drive primarily with my feet and shifting my body weight aggressively back and forth, my doubles partner Jayson is laying below me and he is the contact point of the sled and we need to be in sync with what we are doing. I have a really high center of gravity and the weight of the sled causes the sled to drive differently, track differently and the lines are different. I compare this to driving a bus the drivers seat and wheel are on top of the bus and it feels like I am going to roll over on every curve.
Even though I am going down the same track the lines and how I drive are totally different and this presents a challenge in a sport that requires decision to be made instinctually in a blink of an eye. It's easy to mix up what the body is supposed to do when you go back and forth every day. That is why I am hoping to become the first athlete in the history of luge to win an Olympic medal in both singles and doubles.
Anything out of the ordinary or experimental in your training?
I use visualizations in my training on a daily basis. Since I only can take 2-4 runs a day in the winter, I need to figure out how to maximize my time in the track. What I do is that I imagine myself going down the track in both singles and doubles to help my body, mind and nerves practice when I am not going down the track. Visualizations are a major tool that I use in pretty much all aspects of life. I truly believe that this is the tool that helped me not look like an idiot on “Dancing with the Stars,” because you can only practice so much physically.
What’s your earliest memory of luge?
I love sledding, I remember at 3 years old sledding at my old house in Massachusetts, and it was the most fun thing I had ever done in my life. Then in Peru, New York, I would go sledding in the apple orchards by my house and it was my favorite thing to do in the winter.
What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome?
I guess I don't really view obstacles as things to overcome, but rather ways to grow. I feel that I am always faced with challenges, but I try to persevere through whatever comes my way. Not giving up when very few people believed in me going into PyeongChang was one. Selling my car to have money to buy equipment, knowing that if I didn't medal in the Olympics I was going to be broke and not have a car was another. Those are just parts of life, and I don’t see them as obstacles, just decisions. Surgeries, being the only person in the world to do two disciplines ...
Who do you socialize most with within your sport?
I have a great relationship with all of my competitors both domestic and international. Maybe this is why I am chair of the FIL Athletes Commission. Covid was tough because I really do enjoy spending time with others from different countries. That is one of the best and biggest perks of my sport.