Track safer after Nodar Kumaritashvili death, but lugers unhappy
Five elite lugers said Saturday that they were OK with competing the day after Nodar Kumaritashvili's death. But they don't like using the women's start, though it made the track safer. Their comments show how deeply danger is sewn into the fabric of the Winter Olympics.
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The superpipe gold is his to lose. Yet when he was first learning the trick that virtually guarantees him gold – the double cork – his hands shook with fear, he said.Skip to next paragraph
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Then at the X Games, he slammed his face into the side of the pipe during training, his head snapping back violently. The first thought that entered his mind: “I have to get back to the top and try it again,” he said.
It was not bravado, but self-preservation. He did not want to let any fear take root. “I’d be lying if I said that crash didn’t shake me up,” he said.
For American freestyle aerials skier Ryan St. Onge, the fear of not being able to perform is worse than the fear of injury. “Sometimes, if you take a crash really hard and you can get up and take another jump, that actually adds to your confidence,” he says.
To the average real estate agent, that might sound utterly absurd. But in the presence of these athletes, it eventually becomes apparent that the Winter Olympics are a unique mental and physical ecosystem.
To many Winter Olympians, it is not a matter of dealing with fear. The joy of the sport is interlinked with its danger. If downhill skiing were as dangerous as Parcheesi, after all, skiers might go race motorcycles.
“If you’re scared of speed, you can’t do downhill,” says American alpine skier Kailyn Richardson. “There has to be a little bit of craziness.”
Canadian slider Cockerline agreed. “That’s probably why I got into a sport like luge,” he said.
Speed vs. safety
Even after Kumaritashvili’s death, which resonates deeply in the tight-knit luge community, Cockerline acknowledged that moving the race to the women’s start “has taken a lot of the excitement out of it.”
“I love speed,” he said, before adding: “But you have to think about the safety.”
His comments hint at the conflicting thoughts and emotions among lugers Saturday.
“My emotions are going from high to low, high to low,” said Cockerline. “One minute you’ve got tears in your eyes thinking about Nodar, and the next you’re psyching yourself up” for the race.
Coming back and sliding Saturday “says a lot about the luge community,” said Canada's Samuel Edney.
“For me personally, I felt like I was sliding with Nodar today.”
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