Luger from republic of Georgia dies after serious crash
WHISTLER — Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from Georgia was killed when he crashed and flew off the track during the final day of men’s Olympic luge training Friday.The IOC confirmed that Kumaritashvili has died.
TV replays show that Kumaritashvili, 22, hit a steel beam after exiting curve 16, the final curve before crossing the finish line at the Whistler Sliding Center, which is considered the fastest track in the world with speeds reaching 95 mph in training this week.
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He was taken from the track in an ambulance and a helicopter was heard flying low near Blackcomb Mountain. Medics performed chest compressions and a photo shows medics trying deliver oxygen with an air resuscitation mask.
International Luge Federation (FIL) officials met shortly after the accident. USA Luge executive director Ron Rossi attended the FIL meeting and said the sport’s organizing body “is not in a position to say if the track is going to be modified or changed in any way.”
FIL promised an update at 6 p.m. PT, Rossi said.
“This is a terrible accident. This is the very gravest thing that can happen in sport, and our thoughts and those of the luge family are naturally with those touched by this event,” FIL president Josef Fendt said in a statement.
Track officials are investigating the crash.
Training for the day has been suspended. Not all competitors had completed their sixth and final training run. A seventh run will be added and a jury will decided to pick up training from where it left off or athletes would start over from the beginning of the sixth run, Rossi said.
Kumaritashvili is ranked 44th in the world and competed in just five of the eight World Cup events this season. His best finish this season was 28th in the final World Cup race of the season in Italy. On Wednesday, he did not finish his second training run, but finished four other runs.
In what was supposed to be a day of celebration with the opening ceremony on Friday in Vancouver turned somber.
“It’s a very rare situation,” three-time Olympic champion and German coach Georg Hackl said before news of Kumaritashvili’s death broke, clearly shaken moments after seeing Kumaritashvili tended to furiously by medical officials.
Olympic competition in men’s luge is scheduled to begin Saturday. It’s unclear if that schedule would be affected.
It also was unclear how fast Kumaritashvili was going, although many sliders have exceeded 90 mph on this course.
USA’s Tony Benshoof crashed on his first training run and teammate Bengt Walden crashed on two of his runs Friday. On Thursday, USA’s Megan Sweeney crashed.
Christian Niccum of USA Luge expressed concern on Thursday for some of the less experienced sliders.
“It’s safe for us because we started young, have good coaching and work your way up to the top,” Niccum said. “For the smaller countries and they don’t have the coaching, I do worry about them.”
In what was supposed to be a day of celebration with the Opening Ceremony Friday in Vancouver turned somber.
“Our first thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the athlete,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement. “The whole Olympic family is struck by this tragedy which clearly casts a shadow over the Games.”
This is the second consecutive Olympics impacted by a death. At Beijing in 2008, Todd Bachman, the father-in-law of the coach of the U.S. men’s indoor volleyball team, was murdered while sightseeing. Bachman’s wife, Barbara, suffered serious injuries in the attack by a knife-wielding Chinese man who then jumped to his death at an ancient tower.
Contributing: The Associated Press