Dead luger told father of his fears

Kumaritashvili warned of excessive track speeds before his fatal accident

In a call home shortly before he was thrown from his luge and killed on an Olympic training run, Nodar Kumaritashvili told his father that he was afraid of the brand-new, lightning-quick track in Whistler.

"He told me, "Dad, I really fear that curve,'" David Kumaritashvili, a former luger himself, said at his home on the snow-covered slopes of Georgia's top ski resort.

"I'm a former athlete myself, and I told him, 'You just take a slower start,'" recalled Kumaritashvili, who at times struggled to hold back tears. "But he responded: 'Dad, what kind of thing you are teaching me? I have come to the Olympics to try to win.'"

Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, died during practice last Friday when he lost control of his sled and slammed into a trackside steel pole at nearly 90mph.

"I haven't and I won't see that footage [of the accident]," his father said. "I still can't fully realise that he's dead."

His face lined and shoulders bent in anguish, David Kumaritashvili paused to recall details of one of his last conversations with his son. "He told me: 'I will either win or die,'" he said. "But that was youthful bravado, he couldn't be seriously talking about death."

Concerns about the course had been raised earlier. There were worries that the $100m (£64m)-plus venue was too technically demanding, and that only the host nation's sliders would have had enough practice time to adapt.

"They tested that track on my son," the elder Kumaritashvili said.

In a joint statement, the luge federation and Vancouver Olympic officials blamed the accident on the athlete, saying that Kumaritashvili was late coming out of the next-to-last turn and failed to compensate.

His 46-year-old father angrily rejected this argument. "My son was training since he was 14, he ran tracks in France, Austria and Canada, and he never suffered an injury," said Kumaritashvili, a former luge champion of the Soviet Union. "He has passed through all stages of the World Cup and made it to the Olympics. He couldn't have done that if he were an inexperienced athlete. Anyone can make mistake and break a leg or suffer some other injury. But to die!"

Georgia's President, Mikhail Saakashvili, has also criticised organisers, saying that an athlete's mistake shouldn't result in his death. Saakashvili called Kumaritashvili's father and promised him that his son's body would be flown home as quickly as formalities allow. No date has been set for the funeral yet.

A steady stream of neighbours and friends came to Kumaritashvili's home yesterday, bearing flowers and condolences for the family.

The luger was the pride of his hometown, where he was known for his high spirits and generosity. The village of 1,500 inhabitants was one of the sites Georgia had proposed in its failed bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

David Gureshidze, a 28-year-old friend of Nodar Kumaritashvili, admired the young athlete's commitment to his sport. "I have never seen such a dedicated person, sports was everything to him," Gureshidze said. "I taught him skiing, and in several months he was skiing better than me."

Gureshidze said that Nodar had been well liked by children of the village, and had taught many of them to ski. "He spent most of his time abroad, but he would never miss a chance to visit home and would bring gifts to everyone," Gureshidze said.

The athlete's 20-year-old cousin, Givi Kharazishvili, said Nodar Kumaritashvili had been driven by high ambitions. "He had a dream of winning the Olympics," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum