February 14, 2010
The day before he died, luger Nodar Kumaritashvili spoke to his father by phone and said he was terrified of the track at the Whistler Sliding Center.
David Kumaritashvili gave an interview Sunday outside his house in the Georgian mountain town of Bakuriani, recounting one of the last conversations he had with his 21-year-old son. The Wall Street Journal reports:
"He called me before the Olympics, three days ago, and he said, 'Dad, I'm scared of one of the turns.'
"I said, 'Put your legs down on the ice to slow down,' but he said if he started the course he would finish it. ... He was brave."
Nodar Kumaritashvili also spoke with his parents minutes before his fateful slide, telling them he planned to make them proud, according to The Globe and Mail.
Since his death, many people have debated whether the track was too fast or the relatively inexperienced luger was out of his element. A number of Olympic lugers think the track was fine. They fault Kumaritashvili – a sentiment shared by luging officials who deemed the track safe (even while hypocritically lowering the starting location and adding pads to the metal beams that caused the death).
Germany's Natalie Geisenberger, who won a race at Whistler last year, said the women's event has turned into a kids race, a startlingly insensitive remark given the tragedy of Friday:
I'm not happy about the new start.
It’s not a woman’s start, it’s a kinder (German for children’s) start. The rest of the track is OK, but it's not as fast as from the proper start. It's the same for all the athletes, but I don't like it. I felt very good, but now because of the new start it's not fun.
Canadian Regan Lauscher complained that the lowered start means her nation's home-track advantage is "basically gone." Given that some have said Canada's resistance to allow other countries to train at the Whistler track played a role in Kumaritashvili's death, that comment beats out even Geisenberger's for insensitivity. Maybe Lauscher is taking cues from her coach, Wolfgang Staudinger, who said that "exotic sliders" are the reasons luge accidents happen.