Former Saranac Lake resident and U.S. luger Chris Mazdzer announced this week that following this weekend’s FIL World Cup in Lake Placid, he’ll be retiring from the sport.
Mazdzer, 35, has been an inspiration to Tri-Lakes residents throughout his career. That image of Mazdzer securing a silver medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea — the first men’s singles slider medal for the U.S. — is one that meant so much more to this region than he may know.
Though he now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, he started his luge career in the Saranac Lake area, and four Winter Olympic Games, countless examples of athletic excellence and a “Dancing with the Stars” stint later, this region still proudly calls Mazdzer a local hero.
Mazdzer’s family moved from Massachusetts to the Plattsburgh area when he was 8 years old, and his parents took him to Lake Placid to try bobsled. Because the line to try bobseld was long, Mazdzer grew impatient and noticed the line to try luge was much shorter, so he tried that instead. He was hooked almost immediately. The Mazdzer family moved to Saranac Lake to help him pursue the sport, and at 13 years old, he went to Europe on the junior circuit.
Mazdzer told Enterprise Sports Editor Parker O’Brien in a story published Monday that he really grew as a professional athlete during the 2005-06 season. He missed his shot for a spot in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, but the loss pushed Mazdzer to new heights as an athlete. He qualified for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, and again four years later at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Mazdzer was elected head of the FIL Athletes Council in 2013 and given a voting board seat in 2015, a position that allowed him to bring an athlete’s voice to the table.
“When I first got into this, athletes weren’t really involved in the organization besides one meeting a year, and now we have athletes who are involved in, I would say, most meetings,” he told the Enterprise in 2022.
With disappointing World Cup results leading up to the 2018 Olympics, Mazder was faced with what could’ve been a major set back: He needed better equipment, but didn’t get enough funding. He sold his car and lived with his girlfriend, now wife, putting his all into luge.
After earning his silver medal in 2018, Mazdzer wasn’t done. He decided to aim for a doubles luge spot in the 2022 Olympics alongside Jayson Terdiman. Mazdzer faced a series of set backs that season, which seemed to culminate when Mazdzer and Terdiman tragically crashed on their final run, losing them the spot.
Still, Mazdzer earned eighth-place in men’s singles at that Olympics.
Mazdzer’s story is one of passion, resilience, humility and the power of hard work and dedication.
It’s clear that Mazdzer lives and breathes this sport. It’s understandable, then, that now as a father of one with another child on the way, Mazdzer would choose to retire.
“I can’t dedicate the time it would require to be an exceptional luge athlete and have a job and have a family,” he said. “Something had to give, and honestly, looking back, I’ve had a fantastic career, and I’ve had a bunch of amazing life experiences. I think this is the way to do it. Let’s go out at home.”
We’re thrilled to know that while he no longer plans to compete, Mazdzer plans to stay involved as a USA Athlete Commission representative.
With that being said, we wish Mazdzer a happy retirement and wish only the best and brightest future for him, his wife, Mara and his 2-year-old son Nicolai, and his parents, Dr. Ed Mazdzer and Marty Lawthers. Know that whatever you do next, the Tri-Lakes will be cheering you on.