The coroner's report on Nodar Kumaritashvili has been released, and at least one of the luger's loved ones is upset. The Georgian luger died in an accident at the Olympic track in Vancouver just hours before the Opening Ceremony.
The report concluded that Kumaritashvili could not handle the difficult track at Whistler, outside of Vancouver. Part of the report from The Province:
"The collision was a result of an interaction of factors including high speed, technical challenges and exacting physical forces with the associated physiological stresses, which converged at a critical moment overwhelming the athlete and causing irrevocable loss of control of the sled," the report said. [...]
"It has been offered to this investigation that some highly skilled and experienced lugers can 'learn a track' in as little as 10 or 15 runs. That may be the case but it would also be reasonable to conclude that the less experienced, less trained or less skilled athletes may require more venue-specific training time in order to attain their level of comfort at a particular track."
Kumaritashvili's father did not take the report well.
"I don’t accept the statement about Nodar’s lack of experience," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "He wouldn’t have won the right to take part in the Olympics if he lacked experience."
It's understandable for David Kumaritashvili to be upset. He lost his son less than a year ago, and now he hears that the reason his son died is because he wasn't good enough.
But the coroner's report didn't look at Olympic qualification procedures, which is how his son "won the right" to compete. The coroner looked at the situation in which his son died, two completely different things. What comes next from the coroner's report may comfort David, as the coroner had specific recommendations to improve the safety of a sport that involves athletes flying down a track on a small sled at upwards of 90 mph.
The report asked that athletes get more time to train on the track before major competitions, especially for new tracks, like the one at Whistler. It also recommended that the international governing bodies for luge, bobsled and skeleton -- the sports that use the track -- require safety testing and audit their own safety procedures.
These recommendations seem so common sense that it is insane that an athlete had to die for them to be made. But if safety in a high-risk sport is improved, then perhaps Kumaritashvili's death will not be in vain. Hopefully, his father can take solace in that.