Death raises questions about luge track, Canadian competitiveness

Athletes feel like ‘lemmings’ thrown down ‘exceedingly dangerous’ course

A collective cry went out at the Main Media Centre this morning when video featuring the horrific crash of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili was broadcast into the main hall. The 21-year-old racer died at the Whistler Sliding Centre — following his second crash in just two days. His death cast an immediate pall over Vancouver, where the opening ceremonies are set to begin in just two hours.

Both International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Organizing Committee addressed reporters this afternoon. Both donned black suits and black ties and appeared visibly shaken by the day’s event.

“This is a very sad day,” said Rogge. “The IOC is in deep mourning. Here you have a young athlete who lost his life pursuing his passion.”

“We are heartbroken beyond words,” said Furlong. “The accident is tragic. It will be investigated and when we know the results you will be informed.”

Even before the accident, questions about the “exceedingly dangerous,” 1,450-m-long course — the fastest on earth — were being raised. The top speed reached at the track at Fitzsimmon’s Creek, on Blackcomb Mountain is 153.93 kph. Kumaritashvili was believed to have been travelling at 143.3 kph.

In training runs Thursday, both Guntis Rekis of Latvia and Stefan Hoehner of Germany had high-speed crashes. “My goals are to stay alive, not break bones,” Rekis told reporters. “I was scared a bit.”

“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.”

“I’ve never slid that fast,” Maya Pedersen, a Swiss gold-medallist told Maclean’s last February.

Although both the international luge and bobsleigh federations declared the track safe and Games-ready a year ago, the International Luge Federation (FIL) president Josef Fendt of Germany told reporters that the sporting body wanted less-experienced, and less-talented lugers to have more training time at the WSC prior to the Vancouver Games. Fendt also said the protective devices near the track’s curb were too short, and needed to be lengthened so athletes were protected from flying from the track.

Questions will likely also be raised about Canada’s aggressive pursuit of the home ice advantage in Vancouver and Whistler.

Earlier this week, Andy Schmid, the performance director of British Skeleton called the Canadian decision to limit practice time for overseas competitors (compared to the more than 300 runs set aside for Canadian athletes) as irresponsible. “Please, let there be no accidents there because that could kill the sport,” he told Britain’s Telegraph.

“People have the argument that it’s just home advantage and that’s normal for an Olympic host country, but it’s different for sports involving high speed. Can you imagine in Formula One nobody being allowed on a track because somebody has home advantage?”

No one yet knows how the crash will affect tonight’s Opening Ceremonies at BC Place, or the luge event itself, set to begin Saturday, with the men’s singles. Luge training at Whistler has been suspended.




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Death raises questions about luge track, Canadian competitiveness

  1. I'm reading in some reports that this is the 1st death at a Winter Olympics event (ok, so it was pre-Olympics training, if you want to get technical).

    Not exactly a great way to start off the Games.

    • YIKES!!!! look at the pictures…there is no screen to protect the competitors from hitting the columns…NASCAR learned this lesson back in the 60's……… even the wood trim boards on either side of the track are blunt enough to split a head open at 100mph…….common sense…not so common.

    • This is not the first death in a Winter Olympics, just the first since 1992.

  2. "This isn't the first time a competitor has died at the Games. At Lake Placid, Sergio Zardini, who was competing for Canada, died in a training run. At the 64 Innsbruck Games, Australian alpine skier Ross Milne and British luge slider Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski both died during training prior to the Games."

    Did you read the whole story?

    • Actually the story is wrong. Zardini did not die at the Lake Placid Olympics. He died in 1966 at a competition held at Lake Placid but not the Olympics which were held that year.

    • Seems we're both not reading:

      Olympic historian David Wallechinsky told the New York Times on Wednesday that there have been no deaths during official Winter Olympics competitions

      http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/02/12/georgian-luger

      I'm technically wrong in that this was a pre-training event where it happened… and that report you're quoting me is erroneous as well, since those deaths mentioned were also pre-training Olympics.

      Regardless.. it's still horrible.. and it's still irresponsible if we limited track access to this course.

  3. Seriously people…Canada is not out to get anyone hurt or stop them from practicing there given sport. I think printing that is just a stab and an attempt to put a nasty spin on an already terrible accident and death that occured today!

    • We clearly are stopping people from practicing their chosen sport.

    • Welcome to the media. Anything for a headline.

  4. So sad and such a young man. All thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and Country.

    This is not the first athlete to die during an Olympic competition or training session. In 1912, Portuguese marathon runner Francisco Lazaro, 21, collapsed from sunstroke and heart trouble and died the next day.

    In 1960, Danish cyclist Knut Jensen died during the Olympic road race as a result of ingesting amphetamines and nicotinyl tartrate which were alleged to be performance enhancers.

    The 1983 Summer Universiade in Edmonton was marred by tragedy when Soviet diver Sergei Chalibashvili died eight days after hitting his head on the platform while attempting a reverse 3 1/2 in competition.

    In the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Games, Australian alpine skier Ross Milne and British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski both died as a resulting of training crashes

  5. The lack of training opportunities for athletes from other countries due to the in-your-face-sounding 'Own The Podium' program made me mad when I first heard of it. It DOES NOT sound like something done in the Olympic spirit!

    I am now livid. What a dangerous, selfish decision. Boo Canada.

    • I agree. How is this welcoming the world? Come to our Olympics but we'll restrict your practice sessions to 10% of ours, so we can maybe beat you and boast? When did this country get so pathetically insecure?

  6. I guess the writer would have Canadians go back to the good old days when we were thrilled to get 4th place or be in the top 10. What nonsense – if you are in it, you are in it to win or go home!

  7. sorry, 'which were not held that year'.

  8. Why are you taking this tragedy and turning it into an opportunity to bash Canadian patriotism. Charlie in the US I think your country has long been the number one in-your-face patriotic country on earth. Your countless wars prove this.

    • And now that the shoe is on the other foot patriotism is ok? They knew the track was dangerous and they deliberately limited everyone else's practice time to 10% of the "patriotic" canadians. People like you spend your lives criticizing everyone else but can't take it when you receive well-deserved criticism. Well, you won some medals tonight on your track – I hope it was worth it for you. Enjoy it because I can't believe the IOC or any other serious international sporting federation would allow you guys to organize a bake sale after this abortion of an olympics.

  9. This is disgusting…I am Canadian and this story of how athletes from overseas are'nt allowed proper training on the "fastest track in the world" is disturbing and definately does not reflect the Canadian way of fair and honest competition. I would even go as far as to suggest poor sportsmanship on whomever made the decision to limit other countries time for practice on this track. Did that play a role in this accident? I would like to see media put him personally on the air to answer for his decision on this issue. I would also like to see however designed the track put on the spot as well. The first thing that popped in my head is why no guard rail system in place considering the proximity of large steel posts to the track surface and especially on the fastest corner of the track.

    The attitude of not listening to the atheletes concerns is typical of so many other issues in the world…some fat dude sitting in his office chair making decisions for the people that actually do the work. I bet he feels all so important now. With that executive decision comes the responsibility of answering questions for his decision making process for this lack of a safety provision. Needless death that was actually foreseen by the athletes in their comments."lemmings as crash test dummies." I think we have charges for this type of thing… negligence causing death. I would say that it does'nt apply to a sport like this since it is obviously dangerous and the athletes know this…..but there have been complaints made by the very athletes competing and nothing was done to correct it or make it safer.

    I'm afraid that if this course is altered before the actual event starts then right then and there should be admitance of guilt.
    The people that took it upon themselves to do nothing in light of complaints by athletes are a disgrace… shame on you, you have gone through life on your high horse and now you should have to answer for it. I don't feel sorry for you if you feel guilty…I feel like you have been taught a lesson at the expense of some poor kids life. I doubt it has been the first time you have got away with it either and I hope you don't get away with this one, but just like everything else wrong in this world you probably will. A disgrace to our country.

    • Well Blue collar i think you should do your research before making all these ridiculous comments. We can all agree that it was a terrible thing that happend. ok the designer of the track Udo Gurgel has designed six Olympic courses already and yes the vancouver track is about 20mph faster but it was concluded that the speed had nothing to do with the accident but the accident was driver error, and Georg Hackl, Germany's former three-time luge champion, agreed. This is the first time this has happend on his tracks. I am ashamed you are a canadian. Its always easy to poke blame. And i think you should be charged with being an idiot. It was an accident. So to me Georg Hackl knows alittle more about Luge then you And he is not canadian so there is no byis oppinion. Yes the walls should have been higher everyone knows that now but it has never been a problem till now. I will give you a good example for you to understand. About 5 years ago in all hockey rinks there was no nets above the glass at the ends of the rink. Well a kit was hit by a puck and killed. So should the designer of the rinks be charged with negligence causing death? but they didn't put nets above the glass at the ends of the rinks after that!… So your a disgrace to our country.

  10. Boo Canada??? It was an awful accident and many many Canadians are in shock and feel terrible about the death of such a young and talented young athlete. Don't bash a country or its citizens for the decision of a few. Our sincerest sympathies to the athlete's family, teammates and fellow competitors.

  11. Training restrictions started January 1 of this year whereby only Canada and Developing Nations had access. Otherwise training was accessible up until Dec. 31. This type of training restriction occurs for host countries frequently. regardless, this is a brutal crash and peoples concern about the track should have been considered along the way.

    • AND the Luge World Cup was at that track last year.

      But hey, I guess no one was allowed on the track except Canadians right? So we must have gotten Gold, SIlver, and Bronze in that event.
      I feel terrible for the family of the young man. And my heart goes out to them. But the knee jerk reaction to blame Canada is beyond pale and completely tasteless.

    • Canada shouldn't have extra time! We live here! The track has been open for more than a year!

  12. Let's also find out how many times this luge track has been tested by all athletes before making a decision…do you think he was the first to go out on the track….use your head before blaming all Canadians for something that is an ACCIDENT…look up the meaning of the word! This is a tragedy and people are taking away from that with there antics!

  13. Who are all these idiots coming out of the woodwork to yell OMG GO CANADA, YAY PATRIOTISM! A man has died and it is quite possibly our fault. Who cares how many golds we get if we are indeed complicit in this?

    • I don't know, but I'll give it 48 hours before the local media starts blaming the guy who died. CTV apparently ran the video of the crash over and over while filling the air with their inane comments. Way to go guys! Any idiot could have deduced that hitting a metal pole at 140km/h is fatal. I think they're so stupid they don't even realize how horrible they are.

    • This has nothing to do with patriotism, or psycho nationalism. A young man had died in a horrific crash. Investigations need to be made, adjustments made and responsibility taken. What we should be focusing on is how to prevent this from here on out. Stop blaming Canadian rules about practice times, poor Canadian sportsmanship and other nonsense. Canadians and citizens of the world are mourning the loss. This should not be a time to villainize or valourize Canadians. It's a time for reflection and action.

      • Finally…someone who has made a valid point…..with a clear decision on what needs to happen immediatly. We can do all the finger pointing after. Fix the problem so no one else dies. My heart goes out to the familly and teammates of this beautiful young athlete.

  14. Also, a lot of people seemed to think this course was a death trap. The sporting officials signed off on it, but it's our responsibility too. There's no need to make a course that's so unforgiving. Simple slip ups should not send people flying to their deaths. Why wasn't there plexiglass or something covering those beams?! Serious injuries were plausible in any case at those speeds – the sport is dangerous – but it's hard to look at that setup and not think that much more could have been done. Why weren't the concerns raised by the experienced people addressed?

  15. The thing about lemmings, is that they willingly go over cliffs themselves. No one throws them. Hannah Campbell-Pegg is guilty of a very mixed metaphor.

    In regards to the Macleans headline, ''Death raises questions about luge track, Canadian competitiveness', my response would be:

    Um, then don't hurtle down the track!

    That should answer those 'questions' raised about luge.

  16. Terrible accident
    Athlete was ranked last of all 2008-09 world cup participants
    Limiting practice time for other than host countries common practice.
    Track is too fast, but approved by both body's
    Part of the draw for this "crazy sport"
    Bless him and his family
    The games go on.

  17. tbh, i've seen luge courses in the past and crashes before
    but this course just seems too over the top
    its too hard and too fast and with too little protection
    i really think it needs modifcation for safty
    who cares about "setting new world record" for faster speed on an over the top difficult course like this when players are all dead…

  18. Blame Harper and the dirty COC.. You know it's coming from Iggy any moment know.

    • I dont like Iggy, but I dont think he's that crass.

    • You partisan hack, we're talking about someone loosing their life and all you can do is take pot-shots at the Conservatives. Let me remind you that they had absolutely nothing to do with the design, or implementation of the luge track in question… hence your red herring.

      Off Topic and Poor Taste – take it somewhere else.

  19. I don't think it's unpatriotic to question bad policy.

    If organizers limited training runs for international competitors in a dangerous sport to try to give Canadians an upper hand, and that leads to dangerous conditions for international competitors, we should review it and not be blindly patriotic.

    People have been crashing on this track all week. Other people were airlifted to hospital. This wasn't taken as a clue that maybe they needed to slow the course down for safety reasons?

    duh.

    • As I see it the bad policy was the unsafe track not the limited practice time, which is standard for host teams in the Olympics. Indeed if that track is unsafe, as seems to be the case, nobody was at higher risk than our own athletes. Building an unsafe track is something nobody can defend.

  20. As an American, it's moronic for the US to worry about the medal count and it's sad that the Canadians have adopted the same philosophy. I usually want my countrymen to reflect Canadian values instead of vice versa.

    Limiting practice runs when the governing body of your sport has explicitly asked permission for the less talented sliders to get more time is a HUGE factor in this accident. Don't be disingenuous to suggest it isn't. Sad day for the sport.

  21. I'm not sure if the Canadian decision to limit practice time can be blamed here, given that it occured during practice. Meaning that such a tragedy could have just as easily occured during another practice run.

    Instead, the questions should be about the safety of the track.

    • actually the limited practice run sessions could have an impact. The limited number of runs puts pressure on the athlete to push themselves harder than the local Canadian athlete that can push themselves GRADUALLY with INCREASED EXPERTISE.

      With limited number of practice runs, you face running out of practice sessions, and having to pace yourself faster in pushing yourself down the luge run.

      It's not the issue of a PRACTICE run, but rather the issue of LIMITS, and how a LIMITED number of runs makes one take LARGER JUMPS rather than MINI INCREMENTAL increases in performance.

  22. I think it is easy to point fingers now and quote athletes who recently declared the track fast and scary. But I recall the same types of quotes from athletes in past Olympics. And I recall some pretty spectacular crashes too. These add to the excitement of the sport. As do claims that "this is the fastest track yet". They always are. This sport is designed to be extremely dangerous such that the best trained athletes in the world manage to hang on only by the skin of their teeth. I agree that this is a tragic accident, and I feel for this young athlete's friends and family. But I do not agree with statements above which lay blame like those made by "Blue Collar". Please keep the accusative fingers firmly tucked away. They do no good. Nodar is not the first luger to lose his life to his sport, and he will probably not be the last. I am sure that Nodar would want not just the games, but specifically the luge event to proceed as planned.

  23. Wow, I can't believe they limited practice runs for such a dangerous sport!? That's totally irresponsible…. I can't believe believe my country would risk people's lives just to get some stupid medals. This is so un-Canadian and not sportsmanlike at all. Maybe once we win a gold everyone will relax a bit and we can ditch this terrible attitude.

    Good luck team Canada. Win or lose you guys are national heros!

  24. he should have been proud of himself: he died at 143 k mph. But it is so sad RIP.

  25. Canadians need to stop this event until it gets cleared for safety to the highest degree. This track and especially that video evidence of Nodar Kumaritashvili's crash, may he rest in peace, looks like it was an accident waiting to happen. The responsible thing by the IOCommittee is to make sure another accident does not happen.

  26. the fastest track ever. Maybe a bit too fast?

    It's obvious from the comments in the article that the luge federation had some concerns about the track. What a sad waste. And if it comes to light that this is in any way caused by foreign competitors not getting sufficient training time Canada will have yet one more international shame to add to the growing list.

  27. Sadly,

    those on this blog who took every opportunity to pour cold water on the Olympics (for mainly partisan reasons) over the last few weeks,

    have/will jump all over this tragedy for partisan gamesmanship.

    What did Rahm Emannual the consumate reactionary leftist say 'never let a good crisis go to waste'.

    Despicable.

  28. Ice and steel bars with hyper curves as a prelude? Major design flaw in this course.

    Those bars that cost Nodar Kumaritashvili his life should have been shielded by plexi glass thick enough to ensure no breakage would have occured on any possible impact. The glass would instead steer or guide the racer away from the bars, instead keeping the Luger in the safer confines of the track itself.

    There is a reason why poles and cement barriers such as those found on highway exit ramps are shielded or designed to guide a car away from direct impact. Those same safety measures need to be applied here.

  29. I am amazed at the lack of retaining protection in this track. When I first saw the photos showing this man over the side heading for the structural posts like most I was chilled, and then became curious about the Whistler track, and my first assumption was a '70's era construction. No. Recent design and build. I am flummoxed. You must in this day and age prevent the rider from leaving the track! This KNOWN! Then I read the architect had no previous experience before designing the Park City facility, and now he did Whistler. Fine. His track is indeed world class. In my view the speeds are not the issue, but the lack of safety retaining in the event of getting off line is a serious liability in the final engineering and approval of this construction. Look at Altenburg for one for a German implementation and how-to. This looks like building on the cheap to me. Condolences to all, and to Canadians as well who are clearly at no fault. But there is blame and liability to design and engineering firms and others in the decision making chain for the obvious lack (cheap?) of retaining safety equipment. Just simple Lexan sheeting would keep one in the track. Very sda a young man dies but money was saved.

  30. Sad to see this. I don't blame the Canadians, they are good people. They are also proud of their heritage and that is why they need to act here to address any errors or omissions of safety in this track. Nodar Kumaritashvili need not die in vain, get back to the drawing board and make the sport safer for generations to come.

  31. No need for finger pointing here just resolve to get it right at these winter games and make the sport safer in future events to come. Condolences to the family, the games need to honor him.

  32. When my children were young we specifically travelled from Britain to the West Coast of Canada because, above all other skiing and snowboarding venues, Canadians were concerned with the safety of young people. We admired, and stil admire you, for your values and realisation of what is important in life.

    This is a shocking tragedy that could have easily been avoided.The design of the track is defective, I have no doubt that Canadians will act quickly to protect the lives of the other young people in the coming days, this is far more important than who eventually wins a medal.

  33. If you are referring to my comment I wasn't intending to slight Canadians. I spent four years of my life as a student at Western, so I have no problem with Canadians.

    But I do have a problem with the steps leading up to the green lighting of this Luge track. The red flags are clearly there.

    Yes, hindsight is 20/20. But common sense is priority number one and steel girders, a greased lightning turn and zero protection from spill over should not have passed the common sense test.

    The IOC needs to do what's right and put safety over metal count. Show the world how a nation can shine in the face of this tragedy.

  34. who designed the track? A scientist from the IPCC?

  35. The track looked dangerous. When athletes are going at such high speeds there should be padded barriers completely surrounding the track. There is no way he should have flown into the air and straight into a solid metal pole.

  36. One thing that bothers me are the people dismissing this because he's the "44th ranked rider on the circuit". Disregarding the "in the world" part of that, or the reality that this still means he's extremely well trained, you've still got to compare that with people expected to challenge for medals labelling a curve ahead of where he crashed the 50/50 curve because those were the expected odds of you coming through it on your sled in earlier years of competition. Or, that the competition record holder (since the record 153 KPH+ was pushed over 154 KPH in a practice run earlier this year), Felix Loch managed to hospitalize himself on the track as well when it opened in 2008 (amongst 3 others who also injured themselves at the same event).

    I freely admit it's entirely possible inexperience with the course or mechanical failure played a role. But, both of those merely increase the risk to that particular athlete. The main reason this happened – and would likely happen again if someone had the same misfortune to lose control and leave the course on that corner – is the speed of the track and the failure of engineers to properly design that turn to keep a rider within the course or let them exit cleanly in order to more safely diminish momentum if they lost control.

  37. If Canada and the IOC deem the track safe, even after this tragedy, then why are they raising the wall? Obviously, because they now realize 'the fastest track ever' wasn't safe enough, and to spare the international embarrassment of having to admit it, shape the situation to blame the driver of the sled. This is Shameful.

    Canada would earn my greatest respect for taking ownership of the design flaw, rather than deflect responsibility.

  38. As a Canadian, I think it's AWFUL that Canadian officials decided to limit training runs to 40. What happened to fair play, and good sportsmanship? Who cares about the medal count, and who cares if this is "normal" practice.

    The reality is that this is an extremely potentially dangerous sport, and a difficult run compared to other runs in the world. It would have been prudent to allow people who needed the extra training runs to have them.

    If we as Canadians, have to play dirty tricks to win a gold medal, and resort to policies and dirty tricks to get a "home advantage"…. what is behind the meaning of the gold medal?

    This is just ridiculous and outrageous. I am angry for the senseless death, the stupid policies, and ridiculous medal hoarding behavior exhibited. What was the original meaning behind Olympics again??????

  39. How can they say the track didn't cause the death, but in the same sentence say he slammed into a unpadded steal beam?!?!?
    What the hell are the beams so close to the track? Didn't they learn anything from Princess Di'd car crash? If its fast, build higher walls! and #$%# pad stuff!!! The architect killed that Nodar.

  40. The track was designed by a German guy. There is only one other track that is as fast but it is limited to world cup championship use while this track is open to the less skilled. The Canadian commitee has been acting kinda strange regarding the luge. The last time the winter games were in the US, the US coordinators gave the Canadians extra training runs in exchange for extra runs this year but the Canadians reneged on the deal saying a "change in leadership" was the cause for the reversal. hmmmm

  41. If the luge track was a product on the open market it would have been recalled following a death. I cannot for the life of me figure out how they deem the track safe if there is a possibility , no matter how small, of death. I can't remember ever watching the Olympics and being almost terrified to watch an event. Why not move the luge event to the Calgary Olympic Park? A proven track with no history of death during the games. I am not a Calgarian before you all start. Just thinking of a safe option.

  42. This is a terrible tragedy for the athlete, his teammates and others competing in the games. The track was controversial BEFORE this event, however, (the Calgary Herald had a piece that very morning … and there were nasty crashes by even more experienced sliders during training this week). So some questions should be raised at the quick decision to open it after the crash.

    It may not have pleased VANOC or the sponsors, but they should have closed the track out of respect. They could then have flown the competitors, teams, coaches and families to Calgary and run the sliding events from there later this week. Most of them are familiar with the track. It would have been the classy and safe thing to do.

    Unfortunately, CTV is busy broadcasting HD repeats of the slider's death and TSN and CTV commentators immediately started blaming the slider (too inexperienced) for what was clearly a serious design flaw in the track. The US/European press has picked up on this "blame the victim" narrative and it's not reflecting well on us. When bad things happen, you see people at their best and at their worst. Sadly, we're not at our best right now.

  43. I assume everyone had limited track time to practice – after all there is only one track, and people can only use it one at a time.

    The real question is what was the limit. If Canadian athletes were allowed 300+ runs, how many were foreign athletes allowed? 250? 200? Those are reasonable compared to the Canadian total. But if they were limited to, say, 2 or 3 then yes it was a bad decision that may have cost this man his life.

  44. this accident has nothing to do with lack of training time or inexperience of the athlete its blatant disregard for obvious safety risks by the builders and VANOC who over see's the venues construction there is absolutely no chance the engineers did not do a risk assessment of the course and if anyone actually does a paper trail investigation we will find out exactly who decided to ignore what is an obvious hazard (its not like a bobsled track has never before existed) there are very well established safety protocols for these tracks and it should have been even more imperative to over build safety into a track purposely made to be the fastest ever the people who obviously decided the risk percentage didn't justify the cost should be sued into oblivion by the family and that includes VANOC if they signed off on the course lacking the safety precautions which almost assuredly were brought forth by the engineers.

  45. Two quick comments regarding the tragic death on the luge course:
    1) There is a lot of pressure on athletes (and from athletes) to be the fastest and to break world records in the process. I believe the features of the track cater to this.
    2) Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that the human body would be able to sustain a rapid deceleration and impact from 90mph + speeds even if the pole was padded.

    Another point regarding the poles: Canada is not the only country to have these at the finish line. Watch footage of past events.

    Also, from what I understand there is a bit of catch-22 involved in the track design. If you enclose the track with a net or plexiglass as some have proposed, a sled that escapes from the athlete could come crashing back on the athlete causing severe injury. Over the years, sleds have left the track which at the time was considered acceptable and potentially sparing the athlete injury. No easy answer!

  46. In response to another post, this is not the first death at a Winter Olympics (nor the first luge death),…just the first death at a Winter Olympics since 1992.

  47. Let's keep things in context. With respect to all the comments about the number of wipeouts, these are common and not unexpected. It is a difficult sport, and athletes want to push the envelope, go faster, and break records.

    It is tragic that this death happened, but it is an accident.

    There have been unpadded poles at previous luge tracks at many other venues. This is not unique to Canada.

    Also, making changes to the track following the incident is not an admission of guilt, but a responsible reaction. It is just like the plexiglass requirements for hockey arenas that resulted after deaths and injuries years ago.

  48. I'm sorry, but I am an urban planner and I know a little something about design and this could have been prevented. The problem is that so many Engineering practices are beocming so specialized that common sense is often lacking in design. How many time have I seen exposed metal poles similar to this on Ski hills i've skied on. I law suit waiting to happen, or worse, a death like this. Exposed metal pilars just a few feet from an exposed body flying on ice at 100mph deserves more oversight, planning and design — especially since this is an Olympic venue. My condolences to Nodar Kumaritashvili's family.

  49. I too think this is an engineering mistake. I am not pointing fingers, as these things are decided collectively at times, but there should NOT be exposed metal pilars running on the side of a track where a person is flying by at almost 100mph. This makes no sense.

    Whether or not padding would have saved him is not the issue — the fact of the matter is that there shouldn't have been exposed metal pilars. LIke another commenter said, even sheet metal facing or even see-tthrough plexy glass over the pilars would have prevented a head on collision of such force. And even then, at a minimum it is obvious that padding could have done the difference. Anything that can deviate or mitigate the directional force of impact reduces the force of impact already two-fold, if not more. I'm sorry, but it isn't right to say, like some have, that padding wouldn't have made a difference — because any padding is better than no padding.

  50. Wow ! Looks my my comment was a little too much for the "experts, organisers and IOC officials" Typical Canadian sensorship tch tch tch !

  51. Still denying the facts? Just read the excerpt below from one of your own newspapers two days before the olympics. Your boy Ian Cockerline sure sounds like a class act –

    Canada's sliders will enjoy a large home-track advantage in Whistler. The host nation caused a stir leading up to the games by limiting access to the track — and other Olympic facilities — and in doing so denied other countries the opportunity to practice.

    American skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender said the actions were not in keeping with the Olympic spirit and called them, "rude, to say the least."

    That's no concern to Canadian luger Ian Cockerline. He had to take his lumps while learning difficult courses in Europe that the Germans, Swiss and Italians had already mastered.

    "They grow up in those classic tracks where you really get a lot of hard crashes," he said. "When we go there for the first time as young kids it's hard for us to even make it down, so it's nice to see a few people come here and have a couple wipeouts.

    "It's payback for all those years that we suffered."

  52. The 21-year-old racer died at the Whistler Sliding Centre — following his second crash in just two days.

    Very shocked.

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