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13 Feb, 2010 00:31

Georgian Olympic luger dies during practice

A men’s luge contestant died Friday after his sled crashed during a practice run in Whistler, Canada. Nodar Kumaritashvilli reportedly lost control of his sled, flying off the track and slamming into a steel pole.

The 21-year old native of Georgia bounced off the track, thought to be the fastest in the world, while traveling through its final curve at 145 km/h (90 mp/h). He was taken to a hospital where he later died.

"This is the gravest thing that can happen in the sport and our thoughts and those of the 'luge family' are, naturally, with those touched by this event," said Josef Fendt, the head of the International Luge Federation.

The tragic accident occurred only hours before the Winter Olympics were to be declared open and Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said it cast “a shadow over [the] Games.”

A representative of the Georgian delegation said the country would consider withdrawing from the Games.

Despite the tragedy, numerous winter sports experts are stating that the Whistler track isn't dangerous.

One of them, Chris Wightman from Canadian CTV described for RT the Kumaritashvili incident.