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WINTER OLYMPICS

Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili's tragic death felt around world, instantly

The Georgian athlete is killed in a crash during a Winter Olympics training run at Whistler, followed, perhaps too quickly, by images of fatal run on the Internet.

February 13, 2010|By Lisa Dillman
  • Nodar Kumaritashvili pushes off to begin his first training run Friday in men's singles luge at the Vancouver Games' Whistler track, which is considered the world's fastest venue. Some veteran lugers raised concerns before Kumaritashvili's crash that the track might be too fast and dangerous.
Nodar Kumaritashvili pushes off to begin his first training run Friday… (Elise Amendola / Associated…)

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada — Within minutes, so much was known about the death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili at the Winter Olympics.

The same, sadly, could not be said about his short life.

Pictures and video from the crash in training at the Whistler track on Friday morning that killed the young luger from the former Soviet republic of Georgia were instantly multiplying and dominating the Internet throughout the day.

Hours later, reporters still were trying to find out the most basic biographical information about the 21-year-old who had points in five World Cup races this season, tied for 44th in the standings.

He was from Borjomi, a mountainous resort town, and was said to have come from a sports-minded family, according to Nikolos Rurua, Georgia's minister of culture and sport.

Kumaritashvili's cousin is one of the luge team's coaches.

Rurua, who said he did not know the luger, appeared at a late-afternoon news conference at the main press center and shot down the rumor that the Georgian team would withdraw from the Games, mentioning the serious world events in 2008, when the Summer Olympics were staged in Beijing.

"Georgia was invaded by Russia and our team stayed and competed and won several medals," he said. "... [Here] our sportsmen and athletes decided to be loyal to the spirit of the Olympic Games and they will compete and dedicate their performance to their fallen comrade."

He rejected the notion that inexperience could have been a factor. Kumaritashvili had crashed on the same track earlier in the week, but Rurua said he finished 11th in another training run at the track.

"Insinuations and speculation about his experience, to me, seem to be a little bit unfair and misleading."

Another firestorm was unleashed by the quick appearance of his fatal run on the Internet. One video version was quickly quashed by the IOC, citing copyright issues, but other clips and graphic pictures were visible via Twitter.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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