WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Chris Mazdzer of the United States won his first World Cup medal Friday night, finishing second to Germany’s Felix Loch and giving the Americans their first podium finish on the circuit in nearly seven years.
Loch completed two runs on the track where he won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in 1 minute, 36.686 seconds. Mazdzer was fourth after the first run and moved up considerably in the second, finishing in 1:36.978. Dominik Fischnaller of Italy was third, a mere 0.003 seconds behind Mazdzer’s time.
“It came down to the wire,” Mazdzer said. “That was awesome.”
The last U.S. man to win a World Cup individual medal was Tony Benshoof at Altenberg, Germany in a weather-shortened event in January 2007. Benshoof also had the most-recent silver for the U.S. men, taking second at Konisgssee, Germany in January 2006.
Mazdzer already has secured his spot on the U.S. team headed to the Sochi Olympics in February, and he’s suddenly looking as if he could be a medal contender. He’s now up to No. 5 in the World Cup season standings.
He had the third-fastest time in the second run, taking advantage and finding speed where German stars David Moeller and Andi Langerhan could not.
“It was pretty awesome. It was definitely a high-risk, high-reward run,” Mazdzer said. “The ice is so hard here right now. I was really on-edge ... like a bowling ball going down the track, but I held on.”
Mazdzer has been dealing with some shoulder issues and is trying to make sure he physically peaks for the Sochi Games. He said Friday night that he’s scaled his training and weightlifting back in an effort to let the shoulder heal, and is seeing improvement.
“It’s so competitive in this sport right now,” Mazdzer said. “Top six, anyone in the top six can medal. But to medal, you have to have two really solid runs and be going for it. That’s what it takes. I understand the pressure. ... It’s taken an entire career to really push through it and not play safe.”
Tucker West was 11th for the U.S. men, capping a day that American sliders were celebrating in two countries. Earlier Friday, led by victories from skeleton athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace and bobsled drivers Steven Holcomb and Elana Meyers, the U.S. won six medals at the Park City bobsled-skeleton World Cup.
Mazdzer made it seven on the day for the Americans, and his medal might have been the most unlikely of them all, given the European dominance on the circuit.
“Crushed it,” USA Luge women’s veteran Erin Hamlin tweeted Friday night.
In the World Cup doubles race earlier Friday, Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany prevailed, edging teammates Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken.
Wendl and Arlt finished two runs in 1 minute, 13.087 seconds, extending their lead in the World Cup standings with their third win in four races on the circuit this season.
Eggert and Benecken were 0.084 seconds back for silver, and Austria’s Peter Penz and Georg Fischler were 0.264 seconds off the pace in third.
Matthew Mortensen and Preston Griffall were the top U.S. sled, placing ninth. Also for the U.S., Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman were 12th, while Jake Hyrns and Andrew Sherk were 19th.