November 25, 2013

Saranac Lake slider qualifies for Olympics

Chris Mazdzer finished his second and final run, checked his time and felt a brief pang of disappointment.

A very brief one.

Mazdzer wrapped up a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team with a fourth-place finish in a World Cup race at Igls, Austria on Saturday, which more than took the sting away from missing out on what would have been his first individual medal on the circuit.

The 25-year-old from Saranac Lake, is the first USA Luge competitor to satisfy all the necessary criteria for a berth on the team that will be heading to the Sochi Games in February. He will be part of the group formally nominated on Dec. 14.

“It’s a huge burden off,” said Mazdzer, who narrowly missed making the Olympic team as a high school senior in 2006 and finished 13th at the 2010 Vancouver Games. “You don’t really have to worry about what-ifs.”

Erin Hamlin doesn’t have much to worry about now, either. The 2009 world champion was sixth in the women’s race on Saturday, which USA Luge said “satisfied the selection criteria” for her nomination to the team, and while that is a huge step it doesn’t completely lock up a spot on the roster. But if nothing else, she’s assured of no worse than being in a race-off for an Olympic berth.

Hamlin could still clinch a spot before Dec. 14 by finishing at least fifth in any of the next three races at Winterberg, Whistler or Park City.

“I really want that top five,” Hamlin said.

She had a shot on Saturday, sitting in fourth after the first run. She wound up finishing sixth, on a day where the always-powerful German women’s team flexed its collective muscle once again.

Germany finished 1-2-3-4 in the women’s race. Natalie Geisenberger led the showing with a two-run time of 1 minute, 20.135 seconds for her second win in as many races this season. In the last 12 World Cup or world championship races dating back to the start of last season, Geisenberger — the reigning overall champion and overwhelming Sochi gold-medal favorite — has nine wins and three runner-up finishes.

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