An Olympic Tragedy

My nephew, Matt – who just turned 22 – is home after being in Wisconsin for almost two years.  He’s a little more quiet, a tad more mature, and quite a bit more focused.

It’s hard to say if I’m a bit disheartened in finding this ‘new’ Matt.  This was the kid who made every attempt to turn a Dodge Neon into a four-wheel drive, tattooed his penis at the age of 10 – along with best friend, Ben; and the best defining moment of who Matt was – catching him jumping on the trampoline with his skis and doing flips.


So on Friday when I heard of the death of Nodar Kumaritaschvili, the Republic of Georgian Olympian, who died on the luge track in Vancouver, B.C., I thought of our Matty.  Worst of all wasn’t reading of his downhill run to his death.  It wasn’t the unexpected video shown on a sports channel.  It was the pictures of Nodar receiving CPR with blood splashed across his face, his left ear partially torn from his helmet shearing off, and his lifeless eyes.  I started crying.  I knew immediately.

There was no need for that, absolutely no need.  That belongs on where if you want to see it, you go to the website knowing you’ll be seeing ‘blood & guts.’

Those pictures don’t belong on the front page of Huffington Post or any other publication, web-based or other forum.  Those pictures and the full video of Nodar’s terrible luge run don’t belong on ESPN, Sports Illustrated or any other sports forum.

If you as an adult do NOT know that being thrown at a speed of 80+ miles per hour into a steel pole without protection other than a helmet and a body suit will kill you, then personally – I think you’re too fucking stupid to breathe.  And if you’re in the news business and don’t understand the necessity of practicing basic compassion in relation to the relatives of people seeing this, specifically Nodar Kumaritaschvili’s parents, who were and still are in the Republic of Georgia, then you need to be . . . .

This wasn’t a crime scene. This wasn’t a terrorist attack. This was a sporting event. This was the Olympics for Christ’s sake.

Every time I thought about Nodar Kumaritaschvili’s face after catching that unexpected glimpse of the picture, I cried.  Because every time, I was also thinking of Matt, and how happy we are he’s home.  I can only imagine the indescribable grief engulfing Nodar’s mother and father and hope that as time trudges on for them, their grief lessens.

Last night it was reported via television reports that Nodar’s crash (and ultimately his death) was caused by his error(s) or his inexperience.  Not so fast.  The AP on Friday had this story – complete with a picture of Nodar in the air shortly before his crash, so beware – in some sane attempt at understanding the blame game here.  Jim Litke maintains and then lists out the manner in which it was undertaken to ‘run along the edge.’

No one should be surprised, least of all the International Olympic Committee. The Winter Games have been veering closer to the edge of sanity for the last 25 years, more than doubling the number of sports largely by adding those where the thrill is exceeded only by the risk.

With Litke’s reporting and this from former Olympian Werner Hoeger, it’s pretty obvious this tragedy wasn’t the fault of the young man who died.

A former Olympian who has trained on the luge track in Whistler said officials have known that the track is unsafe for quite some time.


“They should have never built the track as difficult as it is,” Hoeger said. “I think this track by far exceeds the athletic limitations of all athletes in the world. That’s a pretty bold statement. I think it is, and I stand by it.”

What’s the point of the sport if you fatally eliminate your players or contenders? Isn’t that what being a gladiator was about albeit not a ‘sport’ but real life?(The link is from the German paper – Hamburg Evening Gazette – and is roughly translated via Google Translate)

Dato (David) Kumaritaschwili, the father of the deceased tobogganers Nodar Kumaritaschwili sits grieving with two friends outside the house of the family in Bakuriani. [Foto: REUTERS Photo: REUTERS]


One Response

  1. An Olympian Son

    Someone’s son
    “Have fun” a mother yells
    And the story tells
    He grew to be a man
    Young and free
    Trusting the earth
    Beneath his feet

    And when it became ice
    Oh so nice
    It was, because
    It was a thrill
    From the top of the hill
    To speed so fast
    To feel so alive
    On icy glass

    And become so good
    He would be
    For us to see
    To fly, to glide
    With dreams inside
    Olympics 2010
    Before it could begin

    Someone’s son
    “Nodar, have fun”
    A mother yells

    And the story tells
    He did
    Have fun
    An Olympian son
    Will forever shine
    Written by Anthony Cochrane on February 13, 2010 at 7:40PM

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