PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) History says it’s over, whether Germany’s Felix Loch wants to believe that or not.
Loch – the two-time defending Olympic champion – is the leader at the midway point of the men’s luge competition at the Pyeongchang Games, finishing his first two runs Saturday night in 1 minute, 35.299 seconds.
From there, it’s a logjam: David Gleirscher of Austria is second in 1:35.487, Roman Repilov of the ”Olympic Athletes from Russia” is third in 1:35.516, and Chris Mazdzer of the U.S. is fourth in 1:35.517 – a mere one-thousandth of a second from the bronze spot.
Time-wise, yes, that’s close. But in 12 of the previous 14 Olympic men’s luge competitions, the leader after two runs has gone on to win the gold medal. Loch went to sleep on the lead at the midway mark in 2010 and 2014, and now finds himself in position to join only Germany’s Georg Hackl to win three straight Olympic men’s luge titles.
”That’s nice to know,” Loch said. ”The last two times, it was not a problem.”
The only Olympics where the leader at the midway mark of the men’s luge event didn’t finish off the golden task were in 1980 and 1984. And in seven of the last eight games, the people who were first and second after two heats remained in that exact order in the final standings.
In fact, there’s been nine occasions where the gold-silver-bronze order at the midway mark of the Olympic competition stayed exactly that way in the final standings.
That’s good news for Gleirscher and Repilov. Mazdzer is looking to change all that.
The native of Saranac Lake, New York has struggled mightily at times this season, creating a bit of a crisis of confidence. Frustrated, he went to fellow competitors looking for a solution and based on what he learned from them he decided to rebuild his sled late in the World Cup season.
Now he’s flying, and becoming the first USA Luge men’s singles slider to win an Olympic medal is now squarely within Mazdzer’s reach.
”The ice, it is so hard right now,” said Mazdzer – whose sisters and girlfriend decided to show up in body paint on a frigid night. ”Training wheels are off. For the Olympics, you’ve just got to go for it. … I’m having a lot of fun out here. My family, friends are here, and it feels like I’m at home right now.”
Mazdzer, a perennial World Cup contender, was 18th in the standings this season. But he wasn’t the least bit surprised to be in a contending spot at the Olympics.
”You can either give up or you can keep pushing on,” Mazdzer said. ”I’m really lucky. When I kind of get mad and upset, my tendency is to work harder. And yeah, I’m incredibly happy with where I am right now. It’s unreal.”
Canada’s Sam Edney is fifth, exactly one-tenth of a second behind Mazdzer. Edney is in the Olympics for the fourth and final time.