Chris Mazdzer celebrates as he slides into the finish area with a first-place time. He would ultimately finish in second place at the men s singles luge
Chris Mazdzer celebrates as he slides into the finish area with a first-place time. He would ultimately finish in second place at the men s singles luge World Cup event at the Utah Olympic Park. Christopher Reeves/The Park Record

Friday was a day of first steps for Christian Niccum.

After a less-than-stellar performance at the men's doubles luge race at the Utah Olympic Park, Niccum and his teammate, Jayson Terdiman, found themselves needing to win a two-run showdown against fellow Americans Andrew Sherk and Jake Hyrns for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

But, Niccum's nerves were calmed by a simple video, sent by his wife a video of his one-year-old daughter taking her first steps.

"She was laughing all the way as she's stumbling all over the place," he said. "I showed it to Jayson. It helped calm the nerves and make it easier to focus."

Inspired by his daughter, Niccum went out and took a first step of his own, punching his ticket to Sochi by winning the two-team playoff and securing the first step in his 2014 Olympic journey.

"It's one step," he said. "Going to the Olympics, our goal is to do well at the Olympics. The first step was making the team. Now we just keep climbing."

For Terdiman, who will be making his first Olympic appearance as Niccum makes his third, the feeling was indescribable.

"It's the thing I've been working for all these years," he said. "It still hasn't hit me yet. It's been an emotional roller coaster all day long. I just want to scream at the top of my lungs I'm super psyched."

It was a great day for many athletes on Team USA. In addition to Niccum and Terdiman, Preston Griffall and Matt Mortensen also claimed an Olympic spot as a doubles team.

In men's singles, Chris Mazdzer, Tucker West and Aidan Kelly were named to the Olympic team.


Advertisement

Mazdzer turned in an excellent performance on Saturday, nabbing a second-place finish behind Armin Zoeggeler of Italy.

Mazdzer, who completed his two runs in 1 minute, 30.839 seconds, said he loves racing on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

"My self-esteem gets boosted here in North America," he said. "Everything's coming together at the right point. I'm finally peaking at the right time."

With no Germans on the men's singles podium in Park City, Mazdzer said Team USA is getting better and better and should soon be able to consistently compete with the elite German squad.

Tucker West poses with his family after clinching a spot in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Christopher Reeves/The Park Record
Tucker West poses with his family after clinching a spot in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Christopher Reeves/The Park Record

"It's great to see the whole U.S. program coming together at the right point," he said. "We're building. The past four years haven't been the greatest for us, but we are moving forward really fast right now. Going into Sochi, it's true the Germans can be beat."

Mazdzer will be competing in his second Olympics, and will serve as a mentor to Kelly and West this time around.

"I guess now I'm the elder," he said. "In Vancouver, I was the youngest guy on the team, at least in singles, by nine years. Now it's completely reversed on me. Hopefully I'll be able to bring my experience and share it with them so we have a strong U.S. team in Sochi."

West, only 18 years old, said he can't wait to see what the Olympics have to offer.

"I'm humbled and honored to be able to represent Team USA," he said. "I've put a lot of work into this and I hope I can be a good representative for the country."