On Nov. 13, Venezuelan luger Werner Hoeger was knocked unconscious during a training run. After his recovery, he began corresponding with international luge officials about the riskiness of the track and the shortage of training time for smaller countries, such as Kumaritashvili's Georgia.
[Hoeger] demanded that Ed Moffat of Canada be removed as race director for luge at the Olympics, that all athletes be offered equal runs in the future, that Canada forfeit the surplus runs negotiated for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and that the Canadian Luge Association be reprimanded for unethical actions and failing to provide a safe sliding environment.
Hoeger said he was denied additional practice runs after an unrelated injury elsewhere. Upon his arrival in Vancouver for training in 2009, he was denied any make-up runs, and was instructed to truncate his training time, the New York Times said. When he was told his final run would be from the men's start, he refused, saying that attempting to run the course before properly learning it "would be suicidal."
"I knew the track was extremely difficult," said Hoeger. "I had heard enough horror stories. Every athlete treats this track with the utmost respect. Nearly every athlete is scared to death of this track."
Obviously, this is just one 56-year-old man's opinion of the track, and he's not a guy who ever set the luging world on fire. However, it is more evidence that competitors were concerned about track safety with the course in Whistler before Kumaritashvili's death.
Considering too the fact that speeds were 10 mph faster than expected, it seems as if changes could have been made to protect everyone who took the course.
The Times reports that a spokesman for the Canadian Luge Association declined to comment, but officials have said in the past that athletes have received almost three times the number of training runs than were offered in the run-up to the Turin Games in 2006.
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- Werner Hoeger