Olympic of­fi­cials heart­bro­ken af­ter luger dies in crash

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY ROBIN SHORT

WHISTLER, B.C. (CP) — Ge­or­gian luger No­dar Ku­mar­i­tashvili died in a hor­rific crash dur­ing an Olympic train­ing run Fri­day on the eve of the Van­cou­ver Games’ open­ing cer­e­monies, fly­ing off a high-speed track that has wasted lit­tle time show­ing its teeth.

The 21-year-old lost con­trol of his sled on the fi­nal turn, went over the track wall and rock­eted into a sup­port pole near the fin­ish line at the Whistler Slid­ing Cen­tre. He sub­se­quently died in hospi­tal.

The shock­ing crash cast a pall on the Games, which had been gear­ing up for Fri­day’s world­wide open­ing cer­e­mony cel­e­bra­tion to be beamed live from B.C. Place. In­stead top of­fi­cials found them­selves of­fer­ing con­do­lences at a Van­cou­ver news con­fer­ence.

“Sorry, it’s a bit dif­fi­cult to re­main com­posed. This is a very sad day,” said IOC pres­i­dent Jac­ques Rogge, paus­ing to take off his glasses and con­trol his emo­tions. “The IOC’s in deep mourn­ing.

“ We are heart­bro­ken be­yond words to be sit­ting here,” said VANOC CEO John Fur­long, also strug­gling to hold back his emo­tions.

The crash prompted ques­tions about the speed of the Whistler course. But there were no im­me­di­ate an­swers.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion on the fa­tal crash is un­der­way. Rogge avoided ques­tions about the speed of the track, say­ing he would dis­cuss that “at a proper time.”

The Ge­or­gian was com­ing around the fi­nal 270-de­gree turn on the light­ning-fast course, where top slid­ers have ex­ceeded 150 km/h in some sec­tions, when he flipped off his sled and was hurled like a mis­sile into one of the thick metal pil­lars. The stan­chions sup­port the canopy around parts of the course that helps keep the sun off and the track cool.

The slider, a blur in his black-and­blue racing suit and white hel­met went high in the cor­ner, bank­ing left. His sled swooped out from un­der him, hit the in­side wall and the Ge­or­gian flew through the air, turn­ing back­wards as he launched into the square pil­lar on the out­side of the track.

There was a col­lec­tive gasp on the fin­ish dock from of­fi­cials and ath­letes as the crash was beamed on the large-screen TVs.

The screens were im­me­di­ately turned off as crews raced down the track to the stricken racer.

It’s the first death at the Games since 1992 when a speed skier crashed into a snow-groom­ing ma­chine dur­ing train­ing for the demon­stra­tion sport in Al­bertville.

through it, ev­ery­thing — sports and oth­er­wise — means that much more to you.

“ We’re lucky and, I sup­pose, un­lucky to know about hav­ing such a ter­ri­ble ac­ci­dent. It gives a whole new mean­ing to your skat­ing.”

Dav­i­son took the ac­ci­dent es­pe­cially hard, blam­ing him­self.

The day it hap­pened, he and coach An­nie Barabe were on the phone to the fig­ure skat­ing team’s sports psy­chol­o­gist.

“Luck­ily, he has a brother who is a clin­i­cal psy­chi­a­trist who spe­cial­izes in post trau­matic stress,” Dav­i­son said. “That was great for my­self and An­nie, who had to see ev­ery­thing. Sure, Jess was the one with the in­jury, but she was lucky enough to be in shock and not re­ally re­mem­ber too much.

“An­nie and I re­mem­bered ev­ery­thing and it took a lot of work for us to come to grips with it.”

The Van­cou­ver Olympics are Dube and Dav­i­son’s sec­ond Games, hav­ing fin­ished 10th in Torino four years ago.

The pairs short pro­gram goes Sun­day.

The Cana­dian Press

Ge­or­gian luge ath­lete No­dar Ku­mar­i­tashvili loses con­trol of his sled and crashes dur­ing a high-speed train­ing run at the Olympic Slid­ing Cen­ter in Whistler, B.C., Fri­day in this frame grab taken from a video.

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