Chris Mazdzer, an underdog if there ever was one, managed to do two things in the PyeongChang Olympics: First is that you can always expect the unexpected in the Winter Games; and second, never count out the underdog.
Despite making the US team, nobody really had high hopes that Mazdzer will ever win a medal. For instance, in his debut in 2010, he only finished 13th place in the individual luge events. In Sochi, four years ago, he repeated the feat as he finished 13th once again.
In the World Cup qualifiers, he even did worse as he finished 18th overall.
Mazdzer finished second to another underdog, David Gleirscher, who was even at risk of not making it to the final Austrian luge team. Prior to the gold medal, the best that Gleirscher has accomplished was finished fourth in the World Cup standings.
The American, meanwhile, was trailing after two heats but managed to do his best run in the third heat to grab second place.
“I knew I could do it,” Mazdzer told reporters afterwards. “It was a blast. It didn’t feel as crazy as it probably looked. But I felt in control, and yeah, it was amazing.”
The favorite to win the gold, Germany’s Felix Loch—the most celebrated Luge player—only finished fifth and missed his chance to tie Georg Hackl for third straight gold in luge. After he flopped, he stayed on his sled for a few moments at the finish line as he still couldn’t believe the results.
Loch’s countryman, Johannes Ludwig, settled for third-place finish, and even he couldn’t believe that Loch wouldn’t be on the podium. “Felix has shown he’s the man,” he said. “He’s a great athlete. He’s always the favorite. But Felix is also human. He makes mistakes.”
Luge was never an event that the US banks on winning a medal. Mazdzer was also the last man they thought could give them Olympic glory. On Sunday, the improbable happened.