April 19, 2010
The international luge federation (FIL) released a report Monday that said "driving errors" caused the crash of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run prior to the Olympics. But it was a "complex series of interreleated events" that caused the 21-year old to be launched from the track into the steel supporting beam that killed him.
In layman's terms, the report says that Kumaritashvili over-steered one of the turns and tried to compensate for it on the next bank but couldn't hold on because of his speed and positioning. He lost control of the sled and went into the wall at such an angle that it caused the sled to catapult him into the air rather than contain him within the track, as would normally happen.
The FIL took great pains to praise Kumaritashvili's abilities and stated that he was deserving of his Olympic berth. Unlike some comments in the immediate aftermath of his death, this report suggests that this incident was a competent luger making a mistake rather than an inexperienced luger making a run on a hill he couldn't handle.
There is one thing conspicuously absent from the report though (read it here). Plenty of words are dedicated to sled positioning and angles and g-forces and wall heights, but nothing is mentioned about those unprotected steel beams. Should they have been padded from the start? Were they positioned incorrectly? Would netting have saved Kumaritashvili's life? Fine, the wall should have kept all lugers within the track. But just because my car has airbags doesn't mean I'm not wearing a seatbelt, too.
Nothing the report could have said would have provided a satisfying conclusion to this tragedy. A young man is dead and it seems like that could have been prevented. The only use in looking back is to ensure such a thing doesn't happen again.