Olympic officials heartbroken after luger dies in crash
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.
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.