Local: luger’s death is ‘devastating’ | ParkRecord.com

Local: luger’s death is ‘devastating’

By Patrick Parkinson, of The Record staff

Snyderville Basin resident Jon Owen said he was shocked to learn that an Olympic luger from the former Soviet state of Georgia had died as a result of injuries he sustained in a crash during a training run Friday in Whistler, British Columbia.

"I’ve seen him race," said Owen, who is a coach for the United States Luge Association. "Obviously, having spent a life in this sport, it’s devastating."

Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed during the final training session at the Whistler Sliding Centre Friday morning, according to a joint press release from the International Olympic Committee, the Vancouver Olympic Committee and the International Luge Federation.

Kumaritashvili died at the hospital after crashing on the last corner of the course, according to the prepared statement. Training was suspended as officials investigated the cause of the accident.

"Our hearts go out to the sliding sport community and all the athletes in Vancouver right now, the track operators and organizers, and the families affected by this tragedy," Utah Olympic Park spokeswoman Jennifer Clarke said in a telephone interview.

Clarke did not comment about the track in Whistler, which some consider to be the fastest in the world.

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"They haven’t really had competition on the track before so we really don’t know what it will be known for yet," Clarke said.

International Luge Federation President Josef Fendt called the death "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," Fendt said.

According to Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, "the whole Olympic family is struck by this tragedy, which clearly casts a shadow over these Games."

The first full day of competitions of the Winter Olympics is Saturday.