Georgian Olympian luge competitor dies in training accident

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hours before the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died after hitting an unpadded pole during a routine training exercise at the Whistler Sliding Centre in Vancouver, Canada on Friday morning.

According to those on the scene, blood was "pouring" from the athlete's head as he was being placed into a stretcher. Doctors did try to revive him, but to no avail.

"Our first thoughts are with the family, friends, and colleagues of the athlete," Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), told international media. "The whole Olympic family is struck by this tragedy, which clearly casts a shadow over these Games."

CEO of the Vancouver organizing committee, John Furlong went on to say: "We are deeply struck by this tragedy, and join the IOC in extending our condolences to the family, friends and teammates of this athlete, who came to Vancouver to follow his Olympic dream."

The International Luge Federation (FIL) is now in the process of conducting an internal investigation into the circumstances of what occurred. Training was suspended until officials were able to certify the course as safe.

The president of the ILF, Josef Fendt, said 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."

Mr. Kumaritashvili is the fourth athlete to die in Winter Olympic history.