Parenting can feel like an Olympic sport, which makes the actual moms and dads who make it to the Olympics seem even more impressive. Just in time for the 2022 Winter Games in Bejing, we caught up with Salt Lake City-based Chris Mazdzer, a soon-to-be fourth time Olympic luger (and a Silver Medalist at the 2018 Games), who is also a new dad to a son, nine-month-old Nico. Here’s what Chris shared about how fatherhood has impacted his Olympic dreams, how to introduce kids to the luge (yes, really!), his stint on Dancing with the Stars, and more.
Has becoming a new dad affected how you’ve prepared for these games?
Life definitely changes when you have a kid. I don’t think I realized how difficult it was going to be away this time around. At 13 years old I left my home in Lake Placid for Europe. I’m used to being away but now I’m seeing my son grow up on FaceTime. We call it the Daddy Machine. He’s been sick and in and out of daycare and my wife owns her own business. She takes on a huge burden and I probably don’t even fully understand how difficult it is. After the Olympics I’ll be at home, helping out. That said, it’s still so amazing. At Christmas I was home for five days [from training in Europe] and he recognized me from Facetime. After the Olympics I want to do one more race in North America as a final send-off and then I’ll be home.
What was Dancing with the Stars like?
It was way harder than I expected! Obviously I’m not a dancer, and I was going up against three figure skaters. I’m an athlete and a competitor and to be very bad at something was challenging. I’ve been doing luge for 20 years. Even though 10 million people are watching I’ve been practicing that for my whole life.
What (or who) has helped you get to where you are?
Luge was a great teacher. It taught me a lot of life lessons, how to manage fear, and while traveling around Europe as a kid you mature really fast and have to be independent and responsible. My parents were incredible and helped give me the platform to navigate the world at 13. I feel really lucky—between family, teammates and coaches I had some fantastic teachers.
If kids are watching you and want to try luge, how would they do that? Is it possible?
Luge is just the ultimate sledding hill! It’s a ton of fun. A lot of kids will sled and I would love them to associate that with luge. In Europe they have public sledding at ski resorts [that translates to luge]. In the U.S. we have a street luge initiative, the White Castle Slider Search. We go to between 8 and 15 cities around the country each summer, and kids come out and try street luge. Based off of natural talent, ability and strength, we’ll invite kids to a training camp in Lake Placid over the winter (50 to 100 out of 1000 kids). Then we pick a development team of 20 to 30 kids. I grew up in Lake Placid so had the ability to try it as a kid and I thought it was the most fun thing to do.
Would you let your son do luge?
It would be a disservice not to teach him what I’m an expert in. I’ll introduce him to sledding and having fun in the snow— that’s number one. And then I’ll take him to the track and if he likes it, great. At the end of the day he’s going to do whatever he wants to do.