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Prior to the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver, British Columbia

there was a terrible accident costing a young athlete his life as a professional Luger. At 1045 in the morning on February 12, 2010, a former USSR candidate Nodar Kumaritashvihi was on the Luger track for a full practice run prior to the Russian team’s slated time of competition.

The Whispering Sliding Center’s track is a 30 story drop with 16 turns to the finish line.

The USSR teammate, Nodar Kumaritashvihi was clocked at 90 miles per hour at turn 13. By the time he reached the final right turn at 16,he was well over 95 miles per hour,  he lost control of the sled, became airborne and struck a steel beam. To his friends and family this is a great loss to endure at a time when the worlds greatest athletes are competing for the gold.  This type of accident could have been prevented if the focus had been on the candidate and not on the track. 

Nodar Kumaritashvihi was 21 years of age at the time of his death, marking him the youngest Luger to compete in Olympic history. AP sources stated he was inexperienced; having less than 5 years accumulated experience. However, after watching ABC7, the local news channel for southern California, it was stated he was an experienced Luger with lots of friends and well liked and respected by all.

Since this tragic accident occurred the track has undergone some major changes. Out of respect for Nodar's family and the Luger Association of America, high speed is no longer a focus or a goal. The Men's starting position has been changed to the Women's starting point which is shorter in length and duration. At turn 13, the clocked speed can reach up to 90 miles per hour but not higher as known earlier in the day.

Other permanent changes included padding the steel beams at the fatal turn 16, building the wall up for more stability to the Luger on the turns and heavily monitoring Turn 13 for greater speeds over 90 miles per hour. If the track should reach speeds above 90 mph then the refrigeration can be adjusted to allow a slower safer ride for the Luger candidate.   

Most professional candidates have up to 10 years experience, if by age 11, they start to train and practice for competition.

According to the USA Luger Organization (http://www.usaluge.org) the ideal age to begin training for professional competition is around 11 to 14 years old. This growth period allows the adolescent to adjust to strength, agility, consistency and endurance while maintaining balance.

Pressure is awarded later when competing as an individual for the first time and later on in professional and international competition.

The act of Luge consists of upper body strength in the legs, back and shoulders while aerodynamically lying on the sled with feet in the runners. Steering is with legs, shoulders and eyes open (at a 10+ degree angle) for successful maneuvering of the sled at high speeds. Braking is accomplished by sitting up, putting the feet on the ground and pulling up on the sled runners (http://www.vancouver2010.com/olympic-luge ).

Timing for the singles event consists of 4 heats over two days while the doubles event is two runs in one day. The total fastest times of each event is then determined as the winners. Timing is counted to the thousandth of a second for each event (www.vancouver2010.com/oympic-luge).

Credits:
http://www.vancouver2010.com/olympic-luge/additional-information/about-the-sport_146008cR.html
http://www.usaluge.org

(At a 10+ degree angle) - Authors' note for clarity and estimation of head elevation for sight and maneuverability of sled  in competition.
 

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