Horrible news from the 2010 Winter Olympics. Georgian luge competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in a serious accident as he skidded off course at a staggering 90 miles per hour.
(Note there have been various videos being uploaded to YouTube, and the IOC is aggressively stomping them out)
AP: A luge athlete from Georgia, Nodar Kumaritashvili, was killed in a crash in training on the Olympic track at the Whistler Sliding centre on Friday, an Olympic luge official at the track confirmed, the worst case scenario developing on a track that many competitors have said is too fast.
Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled 48 seconds into his run, near the end of the track. According to the speed clock on the broadcast, he was going 143.3 kph — 88 mph — and was propelled over the track wall. He slammed into a steel pole near the finish line.
Officials from the international luge federation and Olympic officials did not immediately confirm his condition, nor where he was taken after rescue officials removed him from the track.
Medical officials rushed to the scene and were performing chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the Associated Press reported. 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,” Georg Hackl, the three-time Olympic champion and German coach, told the A.P. “But there’s some things that you can’t do anything about.”
Many sliders have exceeded 90 miles an hour 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, the gold-medal favourite, 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,” Hannah Campbell-Pegg of Australia 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.”
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