On Perilous Track, Officials Quick to Blame Dead Luger

Kumaritashvili's death glossed over, despite safety worries beforehand
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2010 6:47 AM CST
On Perilous Track, Officials Quick to Blame Dead Luger
Armin Zoeggeler of Italy competes during the second run of the men's singles luge competition at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010.   (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

When Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled and slammed into a metal pole at speeds nearing 90mph, it wasn't entirely unexpected by Olympic officials, who had privately worried that the luge track in Whistler was too fast—for four sliders in particular, one of which was Kumaritashvili. Nevertheless, notes the New York Times, the luge federation was quick to blame Kumaritashvili for his own death, quick to re-open the track, and not inclined at all to investigate what might have prevented the crash.

Athletes had complained publicly and privately that the track was too fast; even decorated lugers struggled to control their sleds. The problem was compounded by Canada's nationalistic "Own the Podium" push that largely blocked foreign athletes from practicing in Olympic facilities—Kumaritashvili had taken 25 practice runs, about 225 less than the average Canadian athlete. “I’m all for giving the advantage of the home track to the home country,” says a veteran luger from India. “At the same time, everybody should get enough runs to be comfortable. Safety cannot be compromised.” (More Nodar Kumaritashvili stories.)

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