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Death of Georgian luge athlete touches all

FIL representatives in uncharted waters after death of Nodar Kumaritashvili but say Whistler track is safe


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Track crews worked through the night Friday and Saturday morning to reshape the track and build up the wall on the exit of curve 16. Panels were in place Saturday to keep athletes in the track in the event of a crash and away from the posts that Kumaritashvili hit.

While the FIL admitted that this decision was partially a precautionary measure, they maintained that the course was safe. However, they were concerned about the psychological impact on the other athletes.

"The bottom line is the decision was made to deal with the emotional component for the athletes to alleviate as best as possible the circumstances of this tragic event," said Romstad.

Tim Gayda, the vice president of sport for the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) said it was the toughest day in his career of sport event management.

He explained how the track was developed in co-operation with the FIL and FIBT and the systems that were put into place to ensure that athletes had proper training to become familiar with what is the fastest track on the circuit. Athletes were clocked at 154 km/h during training, surpassing the track record set the previous year during the World Cup.

According to Gayda athletes have made roughly 5,000 runs on the track and it has received good reviews from athletes and officials.

Romstad said team captains were consulted when making the decision to use the lower start on the track, with FIL making the final decision.

Fendt admitted that he had previously expressed concerns about the track design for Sochi in 2014, which was expected to be even faster than Whistler's track. However, he said they never considered the Whistler Sliding Centre to be too dangerous even at the speeds that were recorded in training.

As for the suggestion that more athletes were crashing in Whistler, Romstad said that nothing was statistically different than other tracks on the World Cup circuit.

"This is a fast sport and athletes do encounter problems on a regular basis," he said. "There was nothing out of the ordinary yesterday. Yes, there were some troubles, but what I'm being told is that there's nothing out of the ordinary. It's important to remember that this track is operational for over two years, and 5,000 plus runs, and to look at the overall - for lack of a better word - crash ratio, it's on par with other tracks. So really there were no signals that it was unique."

A private memorial service for Kumaritashvili was held in Vancouver Monday. VANOC chief executive officer John Furlong attended the service. Kumaritashvili's body arrived home in Georgia Tuesday.