Chris Mazdzer thrives on the big stage.
He has been to the Olympics three times and made history along the way. At the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, he became the first American to win a men’s singles medal in luge, taking home silver.
Soon after his medal-winning moment, Mazdzer made a move from the luge track to another competitive arena: the dance hall.
Mazdzer was cast in the 26th season of “Dancing with the Stars” in spring of 2018. While no medals were on the line, the show made Mazdzer more nervous than the Games.
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“I mean, talk about terrifying,” he said. “Like, cool, 10 million people are about to watch me.”
Part of the reason for the extra nerves was the unfamiliarity with ballroom dancing paired with the shortened time to prepare. While he had been competing in luge for decades, he only had days to master his dances with his partner, professional dancer Witney Carson.
“I was only training for a couple days before those dances, where with luge I’m like ‘I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I got it,’” Mazdzer said. “Little different mindset.”
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One aspect of the season that might have helped Mazdzer feel a bit more at home was the cast around him. The season was made up entirely of sports stars, including five other Olympians: Jamie Anderson, Jennie Finch, Mirai Nagasu, Tonya Harding and Adam Rippon.
Mazdzer held his own in the star-studded season. He was eliminated the episode before the finale, outlasting athletes like Arike Ogunbowale, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Johnny Damon.
Now, the luger is gearing up for his fourth Olympics with hopes of waltzing to the podium again.