Luger’s body ar­rives home in Ge­or­gia as griev­ing fam­ily pre­pares for burial

Cape Breton Post - - CLASSIFIED -

BAKURI­ANI ( AP) — The body of the Ge­or­gian luger killed dur­ing a prac­tice run at the Van­cou­ver Olympics ar­rived Wed­nes­day at his home­town, where his grief­stricken mother threw her­self on his cof­fin and cried: “ Why have I sur­vived you?”

No­dar Ku­mar­i­tashvili’s body ar­rived in a flag-draped cof­fin at the Ge­or­gian cap­i­tal’s air­port be­fore dawn, met by rel­a­tives and on­look­ers. The 21-year-old is to be buried Satur­day at a church­yard in Bakuri­ani, a vil­lage of about 1,500 lo­cated in one of Ge­or­gia’s most pop­u­lar win­ter sports re­gions.

Then it was taken to the fam­ily home in Bakuri­ani, where a wake was held. His mother, Dodo Kharazishvili, threw her­self on the cas­ket; later an am­bu­lance team was called to treat her.

Ku­mar­i­tashvili was killed dur­ing Fri­day prac­tice when he lost con­trol of his sled and slammed into a track­side steel pole at nearly 145 kilo­me­tres an hour. Olympic and luge fed­er­a­tion of­fi­cials blamed the ac­ci­dent on the ath­lete, say­ing he was late in com­ing out of the next-to-last turn and failed to com­pen­sate.

Con­cerns about the course, the world’s fastest, had been raised for months. Many wor­ried that the US$100 mil­lion-plus venue was too tech­ni­cally de­mand­ing, and that only Canada’s slid­ers would have enough time to adapt to it dur­ing prac­tice.

At the wake, hun­dreds of mourn­ers flocked to the Ku­mar­i­tashvili house, on a street that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have re­named in Ku­mar­i­tashvili’s hon­our. Many strug­gled to con­tain their tears.

Among the mourn­ers was Le­van Gureshidze, a fel­low Olympic luger who grew up and trained with Ku­mar­i­tashvili but with­drew from the Olympics af­ter his friend’s death. He said he could not bear to com­pete af­ter the ac­ci­dent that took his team- mate’s life.

“How could I take part in com­pe­ti­tion af­ter that?” he said, tears fill­ing his eyes.

An­other ath­lete from Bakuri­ani, Alpine skier Iason Abra­mashvili, chose to stay in Van­cou­ver.

“He cried, he was un­der ter­ri­ble stress, but he fi­nally chose to stay and com­pete in No­dar’s mem­ory,” said the skier’s fa­ther, Va­liko Abra­mashvili.

Hun­dreds of mourn­ers flocked to the Ku­mar­i­tashvilis’ house for the wake.

The ath­lete’s coach and un­cle, Felix Ku­mar­i­tashvili, blamed the death on or­ga­niz­ers. “ The main rea­son of his death is that the re­tain­ing wall was low,” he said.

He added that shades put on the track by or­ga­niz­ers without ad­vance warn­ing also may have con­trib­uted to the tragedy.

“ Without any pre­lim­i­nary warn­ing they put shades on the track while No­dar was slid­ing,” he said. “Be­cause of the shades he

could not see the track be­fore

him, he could not see the curve.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Dodo Kharazishvili, cen­tre, mother of No­dar Ku­mar­i­tashvili, the Ge­or­gian luger killed in a prac­tice run at the Olympics, is as­sisted by rel­a­tives in Bakuri­ani, Ge­or­gia, Wed­nes­day, as his fa­ther David Ku­mar­i­tashvili stands at right. The body of the Ge­or­gian luger has been brought to his home­town in the Cau­ca­sus Moun­tains for burial.

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