Training resumed Saturday at the Whistler Sliding Centre, just one day after Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a practice run.
The sixth men’s training session that was slated to resume at 8 a.m. PT after being cancelled Friday, began at 9:02 a.m. PT allowing officials to complete their investigation, groom the course and address safety concerns.
The 21-year-old slider from Boriomi, Georgia, died Friday morning after he crashed coming out of the final curve of the track. Travelling at more than 140 km/hr, Kumaritashvili misjudged the curve and was thrown from his sled into an unpadded steel support beam.
The turn has since been modified with a two-metre-high wooden wall covering the exposed steel beams. Course workers have also changed the ice profile by scraping and shaving extra ice from the edges of the final turn.
The International Luge Federation and Vancouver Olympic officials said their investigation showed “no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track,” and was deemed human error.
They found Kumaritashvili failed to compensate coming out of the second-to-last turn – the track’s fastest point – and “this resulted in a late entrance into Curve 16 and, although the athlete worked to correct the problem, he eventually lost control of the sled, resulting in the tragic accident.”
Luge officials granted two more training runs to each athlete before the 5 p.m. PT/ 8 p.m. ET competition begins.
The men will now start their runs from the women’s start gate at turn three, which is further down the track with a less severe vertical drop. There have been many concerns about Whistler being the fastest track in the world, and this adjustment will stop the men from reaching top speeds of 155 km/hr.
The women also suffered many crashes during practice earlier today, and their start has been moved a couple of hundred metres forward to further reduce their top speeds of 140 km/hr and reduce the risk of injury.
Kumaritashvili is the fifth athlete in Olympic history to die. Two athletes died during competition and two died during practice.