Update: Source says Georgian luger dead after hitting pole in Olympic training run

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Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili has died in a horrific Olympic training run on the eve of the Games opening, flying off a high-speed track that has wasted little time showing its teeth.
An Olympic official with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that the 21-year-old from Borjomi, Georgia, died as a result of his injuries. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the luger's family hadn't been notified yet.
A spokesman for the Vancouver organizing committee wouldn't confirm the death but a news conference with IOC president Jacques Rogge and VANOC chief executive John Furlong was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. PT in Vancouver.
Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled near the finish Friday, went over the track wall and struck an unpadded steel pole near the finish line at the Whistler Sliding Centre. The track is considered the fastest in the world. For some athletes, it's too fast.
The Georgian was coming around the final 270-degree turn, where speeds approach 140 km/h, when he flipped off his sled and was hurled like a missile into one of the pillars that supports the canopy above the finish area.
The slider, a blur in his black-and-blue racing suit and white helmet went high in the corner, banking left. His sled swooped out from under him, hit the inside wall and the Georgian flew through the air, turning backwards as he rocketed into the square support stanchion lining the outside of the track.
There was a collective gasp on the finish dock from officials and athletes as the crash was beamed on the large-screen TVs.
The screens were immediately turned off as crews raced down the track to the stricken racer.
Medics were seen performing mouth to mouth on the Georgian, his helmet still on, face up on the cement beside the track and the ambulance. Track officials then ordered all bystanders away.
Medics administered CPR to Kumaritashvili before he was lifted into an ambulance. An air-rescue helicopter arrived some eight minutes after the crash. The slider was taken to a medical facility at the athletes village south of Whistler.
Training was suspended indefinitely. Members of the International Luge Federation were called for a briefing and team captains from each nation were asked to attend a meeting. VANOC officials issued a release saying an investigation was taking place to "ensure a safe field of play."
Video of the crash was soon posted on YouTube - and pulled down for TV rights violation.
At the finish area, not far from the crash, athletes, coaches and officials awaited word on Kumaritashvili.
"It's a very rare situation," said German coach Georg Hackl, a three-time Olympic champion. "But there's some things that you can't do anything about."
"I've never seen anything like that," echoed Shiva Keshavan, a four-time Olympian from India. "I'm afraid it's bad."
Kumaritashvili competed in five World Cup races this season, finishing 44th in the world standings.
The $105-million sliding centre, on the southeast face of Blackcomb Mountain, has been billed as a wild ride and the accident happened at its fastest point.
The 1,450-metre course has 16 turns and drops steeply for 152 metres, the longest drop of any track in the world.
The average grade is about 11 per cent, including two stomach-inverting drops of 20 per cent.
It was one of several crashes on the day on the course.
Defending Olympic champion Armin Zoeggeler of Italy lost control on the lower part of the track. He didn't appear to be injured. On Thursday, Romanian women's slider Violeta Stramaturaru crashed and had to be airlifted out.
American slider Bengt Walden also crashed.
"You're trying to let the sled run more and that's when mistakes happen," said Walden.. "Once you think you've got it figured out and you're being calm, that's when things like this happen."
Added Walden: "I don't think they're going to build more faster tracks than this. I think the (governing body) FIL was almost unhappy with how fast the track turned out to be."
The Georgian's crash happened midway through the sixth and final training run.
More than a dozen athletes have crashed during Olympic training, with a Romanian woman briefly knocked unconscious.
"I think they are pushing it a little too much," Australia's Hannah Campbell-Pegg 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."

Organizations: The Associated Press, Whistler Sliding Centre, International Luge Federation

Geographic location: Vancouver, Borjomi, Whistler India Italy Australia

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Recent comments

  • Sounding
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Don't watch the video. It's horrific. RIP

  • Donna
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Condolences to family and friends. May his team proclaim victory in his name.

  • Sounding
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Don't watch the video. It's horrific. RIP

  • Donna
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Condolences to family and friends. May his team proclaim victory in his name.