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Deep USA Luge team eyeing Olympic season

August 4, 2017
By LOU REUTER - Senior Sports Writer (lreuter@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - First it was the alpine skiers, then biathletes, and finally, luge athletes were on hand to meet and talk with the public.

On Thursday at the Olympic Museum in Lake Placid, the month-long Meet an Olympian series wrapped up with an appearance by members of USA Luge who are getting ready to head into an Olympic season with the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games not far in the distance.

The United States Luge team is expected to send one of its most experienced teams ever into competition this winter. On Thursday, three of its most veteran athletes greeted visitors at the museum to discuss their sport and of course, pose for photos and sign autographs.

Article Photos

Members of the Lawless family, from the left, Cassie, Ellie and Bethany pose with members of USA Luge who were on hand to greet visitors Thursday afternoon at the Olympic Museum. Athletes, from the left, are coach and two-time Olympic medalist Mark Grimmette, Erin Hamlin, 1998 Olympic medalist Gordy Sheer, Jayson Terdiman and Chris Mazdzer. The Lawless family was in Lake Placid on vacation from their home in Peoria, Illinois.
(News photo — Lou Reuter)

Current team members Chris Mazdzer, Jayson Terdiman and Erin Hamlin, as well as Olympic medalists and USA Luge staff members Mark Grimmette and Gordy Sheer were the guests of honor who met a steady stream of visitors during their two-hour stay.

The three athletes, as well as Grimmette and Shear, are all either part- or full-time residents of the area. The upcoming Olympics may or may not be the final hurrah for the three team members who were present, but regardless of what unfolds after the upcoming season, they're all hoping for solid, if not Olympic-medal winning results.

Later next month, the team will be on the ice, getting in some training in Lillehammer, Norway before returning to North America for team selection races.

"It's coming very quickly," said Hamlin, the bronze medalist from the last Olympics in Sochi, Russia. "It's crazy to think that it's already August and that means September we'll be in the ice and that's insane. Usually we go in October, but we're going a couple of weeks early."

This is expected to be the fourth and final Olympics for Hamlin, a 30-year-old who won the World Championship title in 2009 and is the only American women to medal at the Olympics. Although Mazdzer and Terdiman have medaled in World Cup action, they are still waiting to stand on the Olympic podium.

Mazdzer, who grew up in Saranac Lake, placed 13th in men's singles at the past two Olympics.

"It's always weird where it actually comes to the point when you're going to be on the ice the next day, and I know that's coming up, but I feel like there is a lot of time in the summer," Mazdzer said. "We still have the big summer program in front of us. That's not out of the way, we still have to get our equipment set up. There's still a lot of work to do before the season, but every day it's getting closer.

"Every day people are posting 200 days out, 190 days out," Mazdzer continued. "Before we know it, it's going to be three days out. You have to have a plan but live it day by day, otherwise, you're going to be stressed."

When Mazdzer was asked how much he wants to stand on the the podium in South Korea, he replied "I want it bad." But he also added that if that never happens, there's no regrets.

"It has been a lot of fun, and potentially since this could be my last Olympics, I've been reflecting on that a lot and how much fun I'm having doing this sport," Mazdzer said. "It's going to be something hard to walk away from because it's been an adventure. I've traveled around the world meeting people. I've been a part of this amazing organization. It's something I love doing. It gets me up in the morning."

Mazdzer said he's been thinking about retirement and added he'll know when the time is right.

"It's kind of an important thing to realize when it's time to walk away," said Mazdzer, a 16-year veteran of the team who is 29. "I don't know if it's going to be this Olympics, but if it is, I want to be prepared, because I've seen other people who don't make the correct steps to transition out. They call it the post-Olympic depression, but it's more than that. I'll come out of this as a certified financial planner. If I do decide to retire, I can go right into the professional world.

"If I do retire, I'll be OK," he continued. "I'll have a good path that I got to choose, and I'm really fortunate to have that. But, if I want to stick around, I'm not going to lie. I'm having a lot of fun right now. This is my life. I could go another four years and I'd still be in the prime of my career. But at the end of the day, I've had some amazing accomplishments.

"This will be my 16th season traveling and 21st year doing this sport."

Terdiman slides doubles luge with partner Matt Mortensen, and the pair are coming off their best season ever that ended with a third-place finish in the overall World Cup standings.

"Matt and I have been moving steadily in a positive direction over the last three years together and we're hoping this year will be no different and we're able to continue on that path," said Terdiman, also a 16-year veteran of the team. "We do have goals that we set for early this year that we want to set in motion as fast as we can just to get qualified for the Olympics.

"We are very ready and excited to get back on that sled," he added. "Matt and I really gel together. We really trust ourselves on the sled. We're really trying to maximize what we can so we're ready to go in February and we don't question it."

Terdiman said originally, plans were to stick with Mortensen through the upcoming Olympic season, but their success together last winter changed that mindset.

"When we started talking, the plan would be four years, and that would have been through the end of this season," he said. "But after how well last year went, we sat down and talked and decided we're going to go beyond the Olympics. We're not sure how far, but it will be at least a year, depending on how well we're doing. We can't get to this point where we're getting medals and say 'OK. We got there. We're getting medals we'll see ya.' We want to see where we can go. We haven't reach our full potential yet."

Based on the results from the past few seasons, there's little doubt that USA Luge is very optimistic heading into the season, and Mazdzer described that confidence of the veteran squad.

"We have a good group of athletes, so we'll see how we do this year, but it's a solid group of guys, girls and doubles teams," he said. "We're showing up this year and we're going to be a force to reckoned with. My prediction for this year is Germany is going to win less medals than they have in the past. Other countries like Russia are stepping up, the U.S. is coming in. You have a good Austrian guy, a good Italian guy. Other countries are coming to the plate. This is the year where everyone is going to show up and we'll see what happens."

 
 

 

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