Today the beginning of the Vancouver Winter Olympics was dealt a heavy and saddening blow when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in a horrific training accident on the Whistler, BC track. He skidded off track heading for the finish line and collided with a pole, and later died at the hospital at the age of 21.
Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled during training, went over the track wall and struck an unpadded steel pole near the finish line at Whistler Sliding Center. Doctors were unable to revive the 21-year-old luger, who died at a hospital, the International Olympic Committee said.
“We are deeply struck by this tragedy and join the IOC in extending our condolences to the family, friends and teammates of this athlete, who came to Vancouver to follow his Olympic dream,” said John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver organizing committee.
Rescue workers were at Kumaritashvili’s side within seconds. Chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation started less than one minute after the crash, and he was quickly airlifted to a trauma center in Whistler.
Kumaritashvili struck the inside wall of the track on the final turn. His body immediately went airborne and cleared the ice-coated concrete wall along the left side of the sliding surface. His sled remained in the track, and it appeared his helmet visor skidded down the ice.
Men’s luge competition is to begin Saturday. It’s unclear if the schedule will change.
I’m no luge expert but you can tell it’s a dangerous sport. You’re on your back racing at an insanely fast pace around a track. The slightest miscalculation could be disastrous so even if there was padding on the steel pole it may not have mattered just due to the sheer force and rate at which he flew off his sled.
With that in mind, RIP Nodar Kumaritashvili and condolences to his family and friends. On a day when you are practicing to represent your country in an international event your life ends in a gruesome and tragic way. He left this world too soon at just 21 years of age. He will be remembered during tonight’s opening ceremonies.
Georgia could pull out of the games as a result of this accident.
As far as whether or not the luge events should continue, I will refrain from any remarks as to the safety of the track. I’m not that knowledgeable and I have no reason to add my opinion on that particular topic.