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Sports

Luge in Winter Olympics to continue, despite fatality

The international luge federation has decided the event will continue at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, after Georgian competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a training accident. The track, however, is to be changed.

Nodar Kumaritashvili

Kumaritasvili's death has shocked the Olympic community

The walls will be raised at turn 16 of the course, where 21 year-old Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control and bounced over the rim of the track straight into a metal pole.

"This was done as a preventative measure," the International Luge Federation (FIL) said in a statement late on Friday, February 12, "in order to avoid that such an extremely exceptional accident could occur again."

The FIL will resume men's training on Saturday, with two full training runs before medal competition takes place on Sunday.

"This is a very sad day," the head of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, said at the opening ceremony. "The IOC is in deep mourning. Here you have a young athlete who lost his life pursuing his passion. He had a dream to compete in the Olympic Games, he trained hard and he had this fatal accident. I have no words to say what we feel."

The luge has always been considered one of the most dangerous disciplines in the winter games, as competitors hurl themselves feet-first on a small sled down icy descents at speeds as high as 145 kilometers (90 miles) per hour.

Georgian athletes wearing black scarves during the opening ceremony

Georgian athletes paid homage to their teammate

Teammates' mark of respect

"This is the most serious thing that can happen in sport," the German president of the FIL, Josef Fendt, said. "Our thoughts, and those of the entire luge community, are with those most closely touched by this tragedy."

There was a sombre opening ceremony for Kumaritashvili's Georgian teammates, who walked out at the BCE Stadium wearing black scarves.

An investigation into the circumstances was launched, and experts concluded that the accident had not been caused by track deficiencies. However, they did recommend altering the layout at the exit of turn 16 to improve safety.

The investigation said that Nodar Kumaritashvili was on a poor line on the exit of turn 15, despite his efforts to compensate, he wasn't able to get a good entrance into turn 16, causing him to career off the track.

The Whistler Sliding Center's luge descent is widely considered one of the most demanding in the world. A number of training crashes had already taken place ahead of the games.

msh/dpa/Reuters/AFP/AP

Editor: Toma Tasovac

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