A men's Olympic luger competing for the Republic of Georgia died Friday after a crash during a training run, hours before the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Games. He was 21.
Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled near the end of his run at the Whistler Sliding Center and flipped over the track wall into a steel pole, German IOC official Thomas Bach told The Agence France-Presse.
"It is a tragedy for his family and the team," Bach, the IOC vice president, said. "It casts a shadow over the opening ceremony."
Medical staff performed chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the scene before Kumaritashvili was airlifted to a hospital.
Training was canceled for the rest of the day. The men's luge is scheduled to take place Saturday.
It is not clear how fast Kumaritashvili was going, but lugers have topped 90 miles per hour on the track, considered to be the world's fastest. More than a dozen athletes have crashed during training, including Italy's Armin Zoeggeler, a favorite for the gold, who came off his sled earlier in the day.
"I think they are pushing it a little too much,'' Australian luger Hannah Campbell-Pegg, who has also crashed on the track, said Thursday. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies?"
A native of Borjomi, Kumaritashvili competed in five World Cups this season and was ranked 44th in the world.