http://www.ctvolympics.ca/skeleton/news ... cid=rssrsn
Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died following a crash at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Friday, according to the International Olympic Committee.
The 21-year-old was clocked at 144.3 km/h heading into the final 270-degree turn of his training run when he hit one side of the wall, crashed into the other, and was hurled off the track and hit a metal pole.
Kumaritashvili was rushed to hospital, but doctors were unable to revive him.
"Our first thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the athlete. The whole Olympic Family is struck by this tragedy, which clearly casts a shadow over these Games," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a statement.
Warning: Following video contains graphic footage of fatal crash during a training run at the Whistler Sliding Centre today.
The crash occurred on the outrun of a turn named Thunderbird, the final 270-degree turn near the end of the track, which is known as the fastest in the world.
Track medical staff immediately rushed to the scene and administered CPR.
"This is a terrible accident," said International Luge Federation president, Josef Fendt. "This is the gravest thing that can happen in sport, and our thoughts and those of the â€˜luge family', are naturally with those touched by this event."
"I've never seen anything like that," said four-time Olympian Shiva Keshavan, of India.
Kumaritashvili is ranked No. 44 in the world.
Training was delayed after the accident and race officials say there will be a hold on the track until further notice.
There were no spectators on course during training, but skiers and snowboarders heading past the venue today were horrified by the news.
"That's insane," said 23-year-old local snowboarder Kurn Bains, "It really makes you stop and think."
Evan Hayter, a 27-year-old snowboarder originally from Perth, said it's going to cast a shadow over the start of the Olympics, but that it's part of the Games.
"When you're doing something like luge, bobsled or skelton, you're putting yourself on a fine line between a lot of skill and danger," he said.
Tom Charron, a 48-year-old carpenter who has called Whistler home since 1981, isn't surprised by the tragedy. The course gained a reputation as tough to conquer.
"Things happen when you're going top-end speeds of 144 kilometres an hour," he said, "It's the nature of the beast. In high-risk endeavours, their are individuals who take the risk."
Still, he wondered why there was an immobile structure along the course that athletes aren't protected from with netting or straw bales as in other sports such as alpine skiing.
"There are going to be questions about engineering," he said.
He also questioned whether the deceased athlete had the skill to compete on this course or whether qualification standards should be tougher to prevent future tragdies.
Kumaritashvili's crash was one of several on the day.
Earlier Friday, reigning Olympic luge gold medallist Armin ZÃ¶ggeler of Italy managed to walk away after crashing in his first run, but came back to complete a clean second run.
There have been more than a dozen crashes during Olympic training this week.
"I think they are pushing it a little too much,'' Australia's Hannah Campbell-Pegg said Thursday after she nearly lost control in training. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives.''