PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Athletes from the United States and Russia are traditionally fierce adversaries but American Chris Mazdzer, who won a surprise luge Olympic silver medal on Sunday, was blown away by a generous offer from a Russian rival.
“This goes against every Russian-USA stereotype ever but one of the Russian athletes actually wanted me to use his sled because he didn’t think he would come to the Olympics and he wanted to know what it could do,” Mazdzer told reporters on Monday.
“That friendship and trust was really moving.”
The 29-year-old did not reveal the name of the athlete in question but said the offer came only weeks ahead of the Pyeongchang Games.
“I’m going to keep the name down. It was crazy, happened one morning,” added Mazdzer. “It shows we care about each other and there is this human connection which crosses countries and cultures and sport is an amazing way to accomplish it.”
Mazdzer finished runner-up to Austrian David Gleirscher at the Olympic Sliding Centre on Sunday to become the first American man to claim a luge medal at the Winter Games.
The silver capped a terrific turnaround from two seasons of frustration, when all his hard work was being undone by a misbehaving sled. Close to despair, he borrowed sleds from other lugers in a bid to understand where he was going wrong.
That willingness to share expensive equipment was typical of the concern the luge community has for each other.
“If you have the fastest equipment, why would you give it to anyone else? Organisations spend millions of dollars in developing the most bad-ass sled fliers you can imagine,” he added.
“I developed such strong relationships with people, we travel together for months on end, known them since we were 13, so you build a strong relationship.”
And how did he fare with the Russian equipment?
“It didn’t work out, I’m too big for the sled,” he said. “I took it down and was out of control.”
Reporting by Peter Rutherford,; Editing by Ed Osmond