Luger’s death won’t stop event

Published 12:05 pm Sunday, February 14, 2010

WHISTLER, British Columbia — Fast and frightening, yes. Responsible for the death of a luger, no.

Olympic officials decided late Friday night against any major changes in the track or any delays in competition and even doubled up on the schedule in the wake of the horrifying accident that claimed the life of a 21-year-old luger from the republic of Georgia.

They said they would raise the wall where the slider flew off the track and make an unspecified “change in the ice profile” — but only as a preventative measure “to avoid that such an extremely exceptional accident could occur again.”

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Within sight of the finish line, Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed coming out of the 16th turn and slammed into an unpadded steel pole while traveling nearly 90 mph. Despite frantic attempts by paramedics to save his life, he died at a trauma center.

The International Luge Federation and Vancouver Olympic officials said their investigation showed that the crash was the result of human error and that “there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.”

In a joint statement they said Kumaritashvili was late coming out of the next-to-last turn and failed to compensate. “This resulted in a late entrance into curve 16 and although the athlete worked to correct the problem, he eventually lost control of the sled, resulting in the tragic accident.”

Men lugers, who were scheduled to finish training Friday morning, will get two extra practice runs Saturday. Women will train four hours later than scheduled. Men’s competition will be held later in the day as planned.

Kumaritashvili’s death cast a pall over the Winter Games before they even started.