The tragic death of Georgian luge athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili casts a shadow over the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the Chief Executive Officer of VANOC, the Games Organizing Committee said Friday.
Kumaritashvili, 21 died after he crashed during training Friday, just hours before the games' opening ceremony in Vancouver. He crashed on the last corner of the course, flipped off his sled and was hurled into a metal pole.
He was knocked unconscious, according to CBC. Doctors were unable to revive him and he died at the hospital, the International Olympic Committee informed in a statement.
This is a terrible accident. This is the gravest thing that can happen in sport, and our thoughts and those of the ‘luge family', are naturally with those touched by this event, said Josef Fendt, the President of the International Luge Federation.
Canada's newspaper The Province reported that moments before Kumaritashvili's crash, an American luge competitor Bengt Walden said that FIL officials had expressed safety concerns about the track, labeled as the world's fastest.
The FIL was almost unhappy with how fast the track turned out to be but we'll see, Walden said, according to The Province. Moments later, the fatal accident occurred, the paper said.
An investigation is underway into the circumstances of the accident and training was suspended.
Other athletes have crashed on the track during training: two-time Olympic champion Armin Zoeggeler from Italy, and Violeta Stramaturaru from Romania.
The Associated Press noted that more than a dozen athletes have crashed during Olympic training.