Olympic Luger Killed In Crash Training For The Vancouver Winter Olympics On Friday
A men's Olympic luger from the former Soviet republic of Georgia crashed training for the Vancouver Winter Olympics on Friday and has died from the injuries. Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died from injuries suffered in the crash.
Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died from injuries suffered in the crash, German IOC official Thomas Bach confirmed.
"It is a tragedy for his family and the team," said Bach, the IOC vice-president."It casts a shadow over the opening ceremony."
He is the third athlete to die in training in Winter Olympic history. No Winter Olympic athletes have died during competition.
Nodar Kumaritashvili needed emergency treatment after an accident on a track that is the world's fastest and has raised safety concerns among competitors.
Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled near the finish Friday, went over the track wall and struck an unpadded steel pole near the finish line at Whistler Sliding Center.
International luge officials did not have an immediate update on his condition, and officials would not disclose where he was taken.
Rescue officials rushed to the scene and were performing chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Kumaritashvili was lifted into an ambulance. An air-rescue helicopter was summoned and was over the track about eight minutes after the crash.
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.
"It's a very rare situation," three-time Olympic champion and German coach Georg Hackl said. "But there's some things that you can't do anything about."
It was unclear how fast Kumaritashvili was going, although many sliders have exceeded 90 mph on this course. The track is considered the world's fastest and several Olympians recently questioned its safety. More than a dozen athletes have crashed during Olympic training.
At the finish area, not far from the crash scene, athletes, coaches and officials solemnly awaited word on Kumaritashvili.
"I've never seen anything like that," said Shiva Keshavan, a four-time Olympian from India. "I'm afraid it's bad."
Training was suspended indefinitely, International Luge Federation members were called for a briefing and team captains from each nation were asked to attend a meeting.
Kumaritashvili competed in five World Cup races this season, finishing 44th in the world standings.
Earlier in the day, gold-medal favorite Armin Zoeggeler of Italy crashed, losing control of his sled on Curve 11. Zoeggeler came off his sled and held it with his left arm to keep it from smashing atop his body. He slid on his back down several curves before coming to a stop and walking away.
Training days in Whistler have been crash-filled. A Romanian woman was briefly knocked unconscious and at least four Americans -- Chris Mazdzer on Wednesday, Megan Sweeney on Thursday and both Tony Benshoof and Bengt Walden on Friday in the same training session where Zoeggeler wrecked -- have had serious trouble just getting down the track.
"I think they are pushing it a little too much," Australia's Hannah Campbell-Pegg said Thursday night after she nearly lost control in training. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives."
Kumaritashvili is the third athlete to die during practice for the Winter Olympics. Preparations for the first-ever luge competition in 1964 led to the death of Britain's Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski, who careened off the course on a practice run at the Olympic course in Igls, Austria. Three days later, Australian downhiller Ross Milne also died after crashing into a tree on a practice run.