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Sliding star shines
May 4, 2018

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LAKE PLACID - Chris Mazdzer is a self-proclaimed non-dancer, but that didn't stop him from Salsa dancing and swinging his partner in circles by his neck as she wrapped her thighs around him.

The Lake House hotel hosted a viewing Monday night of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," which has Olympic silver medalist luge slider and Saranac Laker Chris Mazdzer as a contestant. The viewing was also a benefit for the USA Luge Junior National Team. Attendees were able to bid on prizes such as hats, jackets and scarves issued to US Olympians.

This season of "Dancing with the Stars" features all athletes such as baseball player Johnny Damon, controversial figure skater Tonya Harding and 7-foot, 1-inch tall NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.

Each dance pair has a introduction video. Mazdzer's vignette started out with him speaking very seriously about luge. As cameras panned over Saranac Lake and the Olympic Sliding Complex in Lake Placid, he said luge is a sport where you can't think; you've got to be ready for the next curve.

"If you think, It's already too late," he said.

It then converted to Mazdzer comically trying his best to Salsa dance and a montage of him nearly dropping his dance partner, Witney Carson, on her head.

"Other than a few fist pumps at the club, I've never really seen him dance," said Tucker West, a teammate of Mazdzer's, who was also on the Olympic luge team.

Mazdzer and Carson were the first pair to dance on the TV show.

Sliders tend to have large chests and wide shoulders, so Carson wasted pretty much no time at all before ripping open Mazdzer's shirt, showing off his pecs. Plenty of people at the viewing couldn't help but smile and laugh at the sight of Mazdzer dancing. At the end of the routine, Mazdzer stood, pointing at the camera with a giant smile on his face.

The judges - Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli - gave the pair 7s across the board for a total of score of 21 out of 30. Viewer votes, however, determine which dance pairs get to stay on the show, but Mazdzer and Carson got enough and are safe until next week.

In February, Mazdzer made U.S. Olympic luge history at the Alpensia Sliding Centre in Pyeongchang, South Korea, when he won silver in the men's singles event. It was the first time an American ever medaled in men's single luge.

One of the biggest themes since Mazdzer's silver medal win is that it put luge in the public sphere for the U.S.

Junior sliders Duncan Segger and Sam Eckert said Mazdzer's rounds on the media circuit further the attention established by teammate Erin Hamlin after she won bronze in women's singles luge at the 2104 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"A sport like luge needs this," said Sandy Caligiore, the official spokesperson for USA Luge. "His win took it out of the maelstrom, if you will, and put into the mainstream. The sport is a little more noteworthy, and people are starting to understand what is."

Caligiore said Mazdzer is the perfect athlete to carry that message because of his energy and openness.

"We don't want to be wallflowers," he said.

Gordy Sheer agreed. Not only is he USA Luge's director of marketing; he's also an Olympic silver medalist in doubles luge from the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan.

"We've never had a medalist who lights up a room the way Chris does," Sheer said.

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