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Luge tragedy continues to have ripple effects

After 21-year-old Georgian slider Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in a practice crash Friday, luge officials acted swiftly, shortening the track by moving the starts down the mountain.

And while all the sliders understood the reasons behind the changes -- and all were mournful over Kumaritashvili's death and respectful of his memory -- many expressed with displeasure with the changes, saying they altered the balance of the competition.

"Lowering the start really, really put me at a disadvantage," said American Tony Benshoof, who spent two years preparing for a steep start on the Whistler track, which he felt suited his strengths. "The second they did that, they basically gave the Germans two medals, which was frustrating.

"But I'm not making excuses. We all had the same situation."

The women's start was also lowered, and that too was met with understanding but dissatisfaction.

"It's not fun," German gold-medal hopeful Natalie Geisenberger said.

Geisenberger made little effort to hide her frustration, adding that the course now essentially seems like one built for children.

"It's for all the same," Geisenberger said. "But I'm not happy. It's not for ladies. It's a kinder start."

The course is now about 800 feet shorter than what the women came to Canada expecting.

"It couldn't just be ignored," said world champion Erin Hamlin of Remsen, N.Y. "I don't know what went on behind closed doors, but there weren't very many options. You can't change how the track was built in 24 hours."

For the women, the start dictates the entire competition more than ever.

They're taking off near Curve 6 from a flat start built for junior sliders who are still learning the sliding craft -- not for the best women in the world competing for Olympic gold. Enter that curve correctly, and you have a chance to win. Enter that curve incorrectly, you lose time that will almost certainly prove too difficult to make up.

"It'll make or break the race," Hamlin said.

World Cup champion Tatjana Huefner said sliders will simply have to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.
"It's not easy," Huefner said.

The women completed training Sunday. Their two-day competition begins Monday, with medals to be awarded Tuesday.

"I think (the changes are) good because of this terrible accident," Geisenberger said. "But they had to do that one year earlier, not when one is dead. That's too late. They are afraid now, but we can't do something for him. He's dead."

By from news services  |  February 15, 2010; 9:10 AM ET
Categories:  Luge , Vancouver 2010  
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Next: Quick Whistler weather update


How silly is this? Killing yourself in practice? We're talking about practice! Practice! Sheesh. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not the race, not the race, not the race, but we're talking about practice. We're talking about practice, man. How silly is that? We're talking about practice, man. We're talking about practice. We're talking about practice. We're not talking about the race. We're talking about practice. It's strange to me but we're talking about practice, man, we're not even talking about the race, when it actually matters, we're talking about practice. How silly is this?

Posted by: FridayKnight | February 15, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

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