The Associated Press PYEONGCHANG (AP) — David Gleirscher struggled to make Austria’s Olympic team. Chris Mazdzer’s season hit rock-bottom less than a month ago.
They stood higher than anyone else atop the men’s luge podium on Sunday as the reign of Germany’s Felix Loch as Olympic champion came to a slippery, stunning and sudden end.
Gleirscher was the surprise first-run leader — and a bigger surprise as the leader when it was all over. He finished his four runs at the Alpensia Sliding Center in 3 minutes, 10.702 seconds for the gold, Austria’s first in men’s luge in 50 years.
Mazdzer made history for the United States, giving the Americans their first men’s singles medal by finishing second in 3:10.728. Germany’s Johannes Ludwig took third in 3:10.932.
Loch was supposed to be a lock, the one who would tie Georg Hackl’s record as only the second person to win Olympic luge gold three consecutive times. But as snow began to fall, his reign came to an end when he skidded during his final run and lost a ton of time in an instant. He crossed the finish line fifth, sitting for several seconds on his sled in disbelief and anguish as Gleirscher celebrated his upset win.
This is how surprising it was: Gleirscher has zero World Cup medals. None. Never finished better than fourth.
On the biggest stage, he delivered the race of his life. And Mazdzer did the same.
Mazdzer was fourth after the first two heats on Saturday, a mere one-thousandth of a second away from a medal spot. Knowing the opportunity was there for the taking, he threw down a track-record time in his third heat — jumping from fourth to second and closing the gap on Loch.