A crash during a training session has claimed the life of 21-year-old luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in Whistler, British Columbia.
Kumaritashvili, an athlete from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, lost control of his sled near the finish line at Whistler Sliding Center, going over the wall of the track before colliding with an unpadded steel pole. The International Olympic Committee has been informed, but an official spoke to the Associated Press anonymously as formal familial notification has not yet been made.
It is unclear how fast Kumaritashvili’s sled was going at the time of the accident, but the track is considered the world’s fastest, and many lugers have exceeded speeds of 90mph during training. Rescue response to the athlete was immediate, with workers attempting resuscitation within seconds. Kumaritashvili was airlifted to a Whistler trauma center, and the remainder of the day’s exercises were canceled.
Prior to the deadly crash, athletes and other expressed concern’s about the track’s safety, particularly for athletes from nations that may have been ill-prepared for the “daunting” course:
“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.”
Update: Video of the crash has surfaced on YouTube. Content may be upsetting to some viewers: