Olympic Luge Track Altered After Athlete’s Death

whistler-sliding-centerCurve 16 of the track used for the luge in the ongoing Vancouver Winter Olympics was altered and the start locations were changed after the untimely death of Norad Kumaritashvili of Georgia Friday, February 12.

The ice in the curve was reshaped and a new wall was built above it. Steel girders near the curve were wrapped with foam paddings.

The starting location for men was moved to the women’s starting location while the women’s was moved to the junior’s position. These made the men’s track 192 yards shorter and the women’s track 268 yards shorter. Speeds and time records become slower because of the change.

However, the International Luge Federation and the Vancouver Olympic officials ruled that the death was human error instead of problems with the track. They claimed that he was “late” coming out of the next-to-last turn (curve 15) in the track, which caused him to lose “control of the sled.”

“There was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track,” their statement read.

The Georgian athlete died after he lost control of his luge at the curve while training. He was thrown off and hit an exposed steel pillar at a speed of 144 kilometers per hour. He was airlifted to the hospital where he died. Further trainings were suspended that day.

The Whistler Sliding Centre, where the tragedy occurred, has recorded some of the fastest speeds in luge history. It experienced several accidents during training runs leading up to the start of the games.