It was an emotional Saturday morning in Whistler as the president and secretary general of the International Luge Federation (FIL) discussed the events leading to the death of Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili less than 24 hours earlier at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
President Josef Fendt, speaking through a translator, called Feb. 12 the "worst day, one of the saddest days in the sport... and that was the worst event that has ever happened," in its almost 60 years in the Winter Games.
Fendt expressed his personal condolences, and then, citing his limitations in English, turned the floor over to secretary general Svein Romstad to discuss the details of Kumaritashvili's death. Romstad, visibly shaken, choked up several times speaking to the media, but explained what had transpired since the accident.
He started off by apologizing for the lack of information at a press conference the previous day, as the FIL's own team were not allowed to investigate the site until the RCMP completed their investigation. The RCMP then handed over the results of their investigation to the FIL and IOC.
"Our tech officials studied the tape, the walked the track and retraced the event, and based on this they were able to render their opinion as to what happened," said Romstad.
"The run of Nodar appeared to be routine until Curve 15. At that point he came out late from the exit of the curve, which resulted in a late entrance into the last curve, Curve 16, the finish curve. Although he tried to correct the situation he shot into the roof of Turn 16, with the result that he experienced G (gravitational) forces that collapsed his body and rendered it difficult to control the sled, and in this case he was not able to do so. Once this happened he was literally at the mercy of the path of the sled.
"At the exit of Curve 16 he hit the wall, which resulted in Nodar being catapulted over the top of the wall, resulting in the final crash."
Kumaritashvili hit one of a series of metal posts that line the final straight section of the Whistler Sliding Centre track.
While some early media reports suggested that Kumaritashvili might have been inexperienced - he did not take part in the Nations Cup or World Cup events in Whistler last year - the Republic of Georgia held a press conference to clarify. Kumaritashvili had 26 runs on the Whistler track before the fatal run and participated in all five World Cup events this season. He was ranked 44th on the circuit.