By Brandon Penny — 02/12/10
The Vancouver Olympics are off to a grave start. A luge athlete from the Republic of Georgia has been killed just hours before the Opening Ceremony.
Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed during his final training run on the Whistler Sliding Centre track. The 21-year-old was 48 seconds into his run. His body was airborne after he struck the inside wall of the track on the final curve. Kumaritashvili was pronounced dead after he was transported to a local hospital.
The International Olympic Committee, Vancouver Organizing Committee, and International Luge Federation released a joint statement. IFL President Josef Fendt said, “This is a terrible accident. This is the gravest thing that can happen in sport, and our thoughts and those of the ‘luge family’, are naturally with those touched by this event.”
Earlier in the day the gold-medal favorite, Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler, crashed on the same track when he lost control of his sled on Curve 11. Zoeggeler’s body left his sled and he slid down the rest of the track holding the sled to keep it from smashing onto him.
The Whistler track is known as the fastest of the 15 luge tracks in the world. Kumaritashvili was clocked at 88mph when he crashed, but lugers are expected to travel up to 100mph during these Olympics.
In September, four-time American Olympian Brian Martin told WEBN, “The track that they’ve built in Whistler is tremendously fast. Many other tracks you’ll have a fast point, you’ll go through one curve at very high speed, but Curve 11 all the way through the end of the track which is Curve 16 you’re really, really moving. You come through the finish line, you sit up, and you’re still doing 85mph, so it’s quite a rush.”
Nodar Kumaritashvili was one of eight athletes reprenting Georgia at these Olympics. Georgia’s Olympic committee officials are still unsure if they will remain in the Games.
WEBN has a video report about the Whistler track itself and the American sliders.
WEBN has a video report about the events being held in Whistler, BC, which includes a look at the Athletes Village and Sliding Centre.