12 February 2010
Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old luge competitor, has died today after an accident in training at the Winter Olympics in Canada, overshadowing tomorrow’s start to the Games. As the BBC reports, the Georgian’s sled flipped at a speed of around 90pmh towards the end of a practice run, smashed into a steel pole, and lost his life as a result of injuries sustained on impact. The New York Times is among many organisations carrying photographs of the crash or its bloody aftermath. The Toronto Sun reported on the controversial nature of the high-speed track.
The last deaths of competitors at the Winter Games as direct results of their sporting activities were in 1964 when an Australian skier, Ross Milne, and British luge competitor, Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski, both died in practice sessions before the Olympics began.
The Vancouver Games official website was still reporting a crash, not a death, by late afternoon on Friday, Vancouver time [NB: this was later updated], although the International Olympic Committee had confirmed the fatality in a statement on its own site.
“Our first thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the athlete. The whole Olympic Family is struck by this tragedy, which clearly casts a shadow over these Games”, said the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Jacques Rogge.