Chris Mazdzer is the first American to win an Olympic medal in the luge men’s single event, and he also may have been the first to receive this surprising gift.
According to Sputnik, it all started in Latvia a month before the Olympics, during a time when Mazdzer was struggling severely, then, in an unexpected act of kindness, a Russian athlete extended the olive branch in the form of a sled.
“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,” Reuters reported Mazdzer telling journalists. “That friendship and trust was really moving.” Sputnik quoted Mazdzer as saying.
Mazdzer noted that it reveals the human connection and care for one another which transcends countries and cultures, that often comes out in sports.
“I guess this goes against every US-Russian stereotype ever,” Mazdzer was quoted by USA today, also adding that it was a very good sled. The sled was more than very good – Mazdzer was surprised it was offered, not simply because of US-Russian relations, but simply because countries, companies, and athletes rarely share their top gear.
“If you have the fastest equipment, why would you give it to anyone else? Organizations spend millions of dollars in developing the most bad-ass sled fliers you can imagine,” he told reporters. “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.” He told Sputnik.
Mazdzer had to turn down the offer in the end, as after taking it for a spin he realized he was just too big for the sled, it didn’t fit right. Still, the offer shocked Mazdzer, and he was “deeply touched” by it.
Mazdzer did not name the Russian athlete, but it is believed he is at the Winter Olympics. According to many, this is kind of cooperation and friendship epitomizes the very spirit of the Olympics.