Winter Olympics 2018

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Chris Mazdzer threw a fist in the air, grabbed an American flag from the stands and let out a scream of absolute jubilation.

Not even a month ago, he was at rock bottom. On Sunday night, he made history for USA Luge.

For the first time, the United States has a men’s singles Olympic luge medalist. Mazdzer won silver at the Pyeongchang Games, matching the best finish ever for USA Luge in any luge event at the Olympics — Americans have been second in doubles twice — and giving the native of Saranac Lake, New York, the sort of moment he’s spent half a lifetime chasing.

“It’s 16 years in the making, what you dream about as a young child and 20 years later you’re finally on the podium,” Mazdzer said. “I still don’t know how to describe it. All I know is that I have my friends and family here celebrating with me, and this is validation. Everything I’ve done, all the sacrifices, it’s worth it.”

And how.

For the rest of his life, he’ll be introduced as an Olympic medalist. For the rest of his career, he’ll know he can come up big at the biggest moments. For the next few days, he’ll get to bask in this medal while seeking another in the team relay.

A career that seemed to be going sideways just a few weeks ago is now right back on track.

“I trained with this kid every single day,” said USA Luge teammate Taylor Morris, who was 18th in his Olympic debut. “Day in, day out, he is an animal. And it is paying off. A silver medal, just a few hundreths out from being an Olympic champion. That’s just the mental and physical resiliency that he has and it just shows that hard work does pay off and dreaming big and never setting a ceiling for yourself, it pays off.”