Olympic luger dies in course crash

Georgian athlete died Friday after flying off the treacherous luge course at the
Winter Olympics.

A German Olympic official confirmed
Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death to the Star’s Dave Perkins Friday afternoon.

The Georgian Olympic team’s chef de
mission later told the Star‘s Petti Fong that Kumaritashvili was dead.

“He died about an hour ago,” a
weeping Irakli Japaridze told Fong and two Georgian newspaper reporters in a
telephone interview. “It’s a big tragedy.”

Officials said they were trying to
reach the young man’s family in Georgia,
a former republic of the Soviet Union.

Perkins was on the scene and said
Kumaritashvili careered off the track on his run shortly before 11 a.m. Pacific
time and crashed into an unpadded steel pole at the side of the course at the
Whistler sliding centre.

Emergency crews arrived within
minutes and were seen performing chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation on Kumaritashvili, who was taken to a nearby hospital by

The Borjomi, Georgia native was 21
years old and is one of eight Georgian athletes competing at the Games.

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.

“He was not our famous athlete but
people in Georgia
knew him,” one Georgian reporter told Fong. “Luge is not that big a sport.”

“This was his first Olympics, his
first time here” another reporter told Fong. “He was excited. He wanted to do

CTV luge analyst Chris Wightman
said experienced lugers aren’t having problems on the course but that less
experienced riders are finding it hugely challenging.

Wightman suggested that plexiglass
or some other protective material could be added to the curve where
Kumaritashvili flew off the course.

At the finish area, not far from
the crash scene, athletes, coaches and officials solemnly awaited word on

“I’ve never seen anything like
that,” said Shiva Keshavan, a four-time Olympian from India.