Month: February 2010

  • “Relatives outside the family home described Nodar Kumaritashvili as a
    devoted athlete, a respectful young man and a fervent Orthodox Christian
    believer who prayed at the local church just before leaving for the Olympics.”

    Nodar Kumaritashvili’s family criticise luge track after tragic death at Winter Olympics

    (Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/EPA)
    Flowers and candles surround a photo of the Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili at the bottom of the Olympic rings in Whistler

    Frank Praverman

    The father of Nodar Kumaritashvili has questioned the safety of the luge track where his son died on Friday.

    The 21-year-old Georgian rider died after he came off the track at 90mph and hit a metal pillar during practice at the Winter Olympics.

    Officials concluded after an investigation that the accident at the Whistler Sliding Centre, 78 miles (125km) north of Vancouver, was down to the driver’s mistake, even though they then made amendments to the track to reduce the risk of other riders being thrown off.

    A joint statement from the International Luge Federation (FIL) and the games organisers said that the accident was a result of human error and there was no indication of track deficiencies.

    Yet Georgian officials have raised concerns about the Whistler Sliding Centre track and the fact that athletes were attaining exceptionally high speeds.

    Even the country’s President, Mikheil Saakashvili, felt moved to add his concerns. “One thing I know for sure is that no sports mistake is supposed to lead to a death. No sports mistake is supposed to be fatal,” he said.

    “Questions were asked about this place [the track]. We were told by other sportsmen there were some suggestions that the wall should have been higher there [at the site of the accident] because there was eventuality of this happening.

    “The good news is that they have built it [a higher wall] now but I think the best news would be if in the future [we] listen more to the grievances of sportsmen, listen more to the sensitivities and we don’t have to do things in the aftermath.”

    David Kumaritashvili, Nodar’s father, who competed in the luge when Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, agreed. “I don’t know anything about why it happened, I don’t know if it was the track or if it was a mistake,” he said. “But I know that he should never have been going that fast. That kind of speed is too much in this sport.”

    Sir Clive Woodward, the British Olympic Association performance director, said that the other lugers at the Olympics were satisfied that the Georgian’s mistake was the primary cause of the crash rather than the speeds being reached on the track.

    “Now they’ve all seen it and the shock has gone away, I think it’s fair to say they all as one say this was an error by a young luge athlete.

    “Over 5,000 runs have gone on this track and it’s been classified safe and I think the athletes all think it’s a safe track. That was it, it was put down to driver error.

    “Clearly they [the organisers] have done a few things – in tonight’s two runs they started lower down where the ladies start and also they just built up that final bank. But it was just one of those things that happen in sport and I think everyone has accepted that.”

    Kumaritashvili’s death overshadowed the opening of the Winter Games in Vancouver and plunged Georgia into mourning, no more so than in his home town, a well-known local ski resort and winter sports centre.

    As a steady stream of villagers arrived at the family home to offer condolences, Kumaritashvili’s mother, Dodo, sat in the family living room, surrounded by photographs of her son and wailing inconsolably.

    “Our hearts are broken,” David Kumaritashvili said outside the home in Bakuriani. “He was so young, his whole life was ahead of him.

    “His whole life he wanted to be an athlete, it was his dream to be at the Olympics. He was so excited about going. I’ve never seen him so excited in his entire life.”

    Mr Kumaritashvili said he had heard that video footage of his son’s tragic death was being broadcast around the world, but could not imagine watching it himself.

    “I can’t watch how it happened. My heart is weak, I don’t think I could survive watching it,” he said.

    [b]Relatives outside the family home described Nodar Kumaritashvili as a devoted athlete, [size=12pt]a respectful young man and a fervent Orthodox Christian believer who prayed at the local church just before leaving for the Olympics[/size].[/b]

    His cousin, David Bedushvili, said Nodar had been convinced he would do well at the Olympics. “Nodar said he would come home with a medal,” Mr Bedushvili said, choking back tears.

    Mr Bedushvili said he believed that a combination of Nodar’s lack of experience and the track in Canada were to blame for the accident. “No one thing was to blame, it was just a tragic accident,” he said.

    Family members said they were anxious for Nodar’s body to be returned to Bakuriani, where he will be buried in the local cemetery and where officials have said a new luge track will be built and named in his honour.

    [b]The Times[/b]-

    Read more: