” “Please, let there be no accidents there because that could kill the sport…”

First we saw this: Record luge run prompts safety fears :

Austria’s Manuel Pfister clocked the fastest speed ever recorded by a luger at Whistler’s Sliding Centre on Thursday, prompting fears that sliders have now reached the absolute limit of what is safe.

Then, we read this,  from The Sun article posted earlier today, about the potentially treacherous design of the Whistle Sliding Centre :

“Please, let there be no accidents there because that could kill the sport,” said Andy Schmid, the performance director of British Skeleton, who condemns as irresponsible the Canadian authorities’ decision to limit practice time for overseas competitors to just 40 training runs compared with the 300-plus runs set aside for Canadian athletes.

 “People have the argument that it’s just home advantage and that’s normal for an Olympic host country, but it’s different for sports involving high speed. Can you imagine in Formula One nobody being allowed on a track because somebody has home advantage?”

And tragically, now, this: Olympic luger dies after high-speed Whistler track crash

Tragedy struck the Winter Olympics on Friday morning when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, flew off the track at high speed, smashed into a metal girder and died after being rushed to hospital.

 A tragedy indeed. My condolences to family and friends alike.

( Please scroll down to read the updated breaking news below )

14 thoughts on “” “Please, let there be no accidents there because that could kill the sport…”

  1. Perhaps VANOC shares culpability for death of the Georgian luger. Limited to 40, no runs will be wasted on get-acquainted laps at less than full throttle. Others, including the Americans, warned of the dangers this track presents. Probably, the track will have limited utility for recreational purposes post -games.

    Nevertheless, Olympic athletes choose sports with high risk of death or injury so it is not completely unexpected. This is posted on VANOC’s website:

    The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in training at the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games highlights the many dangers of a sport practised by only the most fearless competitors.

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  2. Thanks for the story Laila….

    Vanoc is liable for this accident…How is it possible to build a modern venue where a slider can crash into a immovable steel post?

    How come the post wasn`t padded? If it was padded the man would probably be alive today!

    Congratulations Vanoc…You sure know how to put us on the map!

    Cheers

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  3. Laila

    I’m not so sure that the post is the issue here Grant. First indication is the course design.

    In more recent reports, it appears that the international luge federation says that this may have been a “planning error”- that in fact, the track should have had a maximum speed of 137kmph, but the angles on this track allow the lugers to clock in at over 155km.

    Obviously there is the assumption of great risk to any athlete in a sport like this, but if the design is such that the speeds are far faster than participants can manage….? I don’t even know what to say about that. Combined with out of country racers who , as Norm points out, were limited in training time to become accustomed to such an extreme course, it seems a logical leap to say the course was simply too much for most to handle without lengthy practice time.

    It will be interesting to see where this ” investigation” leads. No one who is so passionate about what they do should die at such a young age. It really is a tragedy, for myself, and so many others. And I don’t even actually watch the luge, but I just feel so horrible over this.

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  4. This accident is indeed tragic, but it is true that participants are aware of the risks – the last death was in Albertville involving a collision between a speed skater and a piece of ice equipment – also during training runs.

    Luge itself wasn’t included in the Olympics until 1964 in Innsbruck, partly due to concerns about the inherent dangers of the sport. Ironically that year a slider was killed, but so far I have unearthed differing accounts – one saying it was a bobsledder, also on the first day, before opening ceremonies and other accounts that it was a luger. Or perhaps both accounts are correct, a bobsledder on day one, and a luger at another time during those games both being killed.

    I tend to agree with Grant however, I was appalled when I saw the footage of the accident and the way the luger once off the track (over the wall) was exposed to an unprotected metal post. It would seem to me that the posts could have been padded with the equivalent of wrestling mats or more or perhaps some safety net type of apparatus to catch sleds or riders tossed over the wall. Something along either or both lines would hardly seem excessive. These extra protective measures could be used mainly or only near the end of the course where the highest speeds are reached and where the unfortunate Georgian suffered his accident.

    Think of the nets used in downhill skiing on the sides and bottom. Many precautions that protect Indy and Nascar drivers and spectators, resulting in an amazing lack of death and serious injuries considering the hazards of the races themselves.

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  5. Kim

    thanks koot, I was about to say, at risk of exposing my red neck, just look at NASCAR and their constant work improving safer barrier technology, the technology is there, as is the record of deaths that created it. This accident was unnecessarily fatal. They (or, we) will be successfully sued. Having said that, my deepest sympathy and regret to the family and friends of the victim.

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  6. SB

    I watched the accident a few times just to see what happened [being an emergency services responder]
    i will say he would have little chance if that accient happened at 100 km/hr people in cars with a few 1000 pounds of metal around them do not fare well at that speed let alone 130 or 150 it is an extreme winter sport one with a huge element of danger and the reason many of them do it just to face that and say look what i did and at olympic level they know the risks .
    All that does not take away one bit from such a tragic event and lets hope we never see another like it again .

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  7. I couldn’t help but notice that before holding the luge events, part of the mitigation of danger was to wrap the posts in padding. Why that wasn’t done to begin with is the mytery to me, it isn’t as if spending a bit of money is an issue with anything Olympic.

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  8. SB

    responding to pads Kootcoot post
    i looked and do you think the pads would help much i would say at sppeds they do it would matter little , also note the luge drivers are saying the course is fast but the accident was just that the rider made a mistake at a critical time and they say many tracks have the ability to be fatal if that happens so as long as men want to ride 2 skate blades down hill at speeds you a i get fined for in cars such dangers will exist padding is almost just PR it may help but unlikely

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  9. Effective padding would need to moderate deceleration. If a body is traveling 140 km/hr and strikes an immovable object, even 12 inches of padding isn’t going to make much difference. There is so much force to absorb that padding would need to be measured in feet, not inches.

    Perhaps the question to ask is why didn’t the track contain the slider with higher walls in the risky turns. I’m bemused by the fact that technical officials quickly announced “there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.” Yet, as that was announced, they modified the start position, raised the wall of the track in the fatal turn and added padding to exterior structures.

    Isn’t that like claiming you never went out in the rain even though you are completely soaked with water?

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