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Page last updated at 03:29 GMT, Sunday, 14 February 2010

Georgian luger Levan Gureshidze pulls out of event

BBC Sport's Colin Bryce and Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes

Olympic luge track changes explained

The team-mate of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was killed in a training accident on Friday, has withdrawn from the Vancouver Games.

Levan Gureshidze pulled out before the event at the Whistler Sliding centre on Saturday following the death of 21-year-old Kumaritashvili.

The event went ahead after safety changes were made to the track.

Britain's Adam Rosen was one of 36 entrants to go down the track, where he dislocated a hip in October.

Rosen conceded he had had reservations before making his opening practice run on Saturday, while there were three non-starters in training, including Gureshidze, who later decided not to compete at all.

Tim Gayda

Officials respond to luge tragedy

"It was difficult as someone lost their life," Rosen, 25, told BBC Sport. "But I'm sure that he would have liked us to race and we all put a black stripe on our helmet this morning.

"It's a new track and it's a dangerous sport so sometimes bad things happen, unfortunately."

The men's event was moved to the lower women's start, which was expected to cut speeds by around 10kph (6.25 mph).

Kumaritashvili died when his sled flipped and he hit a steel pole during a training run on Friday.

International Luge Federation president Josef Fendt told a news conference: "We have been competed for almost 50 years and it was the worse event that has happened.

"We have not had a fatal accident in 35 years on artificial tracks.

James Pearce - BBC Sports News Correspondent

"We are all sad and very shocked by the tragic accident and I would like to express my condolences to the family and the Georgian association."

The starts for the women's and doubles luge events were lowered, while a decision on skeleton and bobsleigh on the same track will be made by that sport's governing body.

The decision to continue was taken after probes by local coroners and the International Luge Federation (FIL).

Officials concluded the track was not unsafe but that the athlete "did not compensate properly" going into a bend.

As a precaution, the walls at the exit of the final curve, where Kumaritashvili was thrown from the track, have been raised.

Devastated Rogge reacts to luge tragedy

Wolfgang Staudinger, coach of the Canadian luge team, put the blame firmly on Kumaritashvili himself.

"It was not a track issue, it was a driving error, 100%," said Staudinger, a German.

"We had issues like this before and that happens when you have so-called exotic sliders.

"The guys must know when they enter a track like this that it's serious business, it's not a joke.

"The International Federation has to put much tighter rules into place to avoid this in the future."

A statement on the Vancouver 2010 website said: "It appears after a routine run, the athlete came late out of curve 15 and did not compensate properly to make correct entrance into curve 16.

Georgian team at opening ceremony
1964 Innsbruck - British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski and Aussie skier Ross Milne (training accidents)
1988 Calgary - Austrian team doctor Jorg Oberhammer (snow vehicle collision)
1992 Albertville - Swiss skier Nicolas Bochatay (snow vehicle collision)
2010 Vancouver - Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili (training crash)

"This resulted in a late entrance into curve 16 and although the athlete worked to correct the problem he eventually lost control of the sled resulting in the tragic accident.

"The technical officials of the FIL were able to retrace the path of the athlete and concluded there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.

"Based on these findings the race director, in consultation with the FIL, made the decision to reopen the track following a raising of the walls at the exit of curve 16 and a change in the ice profile.

"This was done as a preventative measure, in order to avoid that such an extremely exceptional accident could occur again."

The crash happened hours before the opening ceremony, which was dedicated in his honour.

Georgia confirmed they will compete in the Games as a tribute to Kumaritashvili and marched as scheduled at the ceremony, wearing black arm bands and looking visibly upset.

During the past week there have been several accidents, including one involving gold medal favourite Armin Zoeggeler of Italy and several during women's luge training runs on Wednesday.

Among those who crashed, Romania's Violeta Stramaturaru was knocked unconscious for a few minutes and taken to hospital.

Patrick Singleton

Former luger had safety fears over Olympic track

Former luger Patrick Singleton, who inspected part of the track a few months ago, said he didn't feel it was adequately tested.

"I just don't think there were enough training runs allowed in advance of this competition to properly check the track and allow athletes time to get used to it.

"I can't imagine what some of those athletes must be thinking.

"There will be some who are able to shut it out of their minds and compete, but there will be others for whom this will have terrible consequences."

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see also
Olympic luger dies after crashing
13 Feb 10 |  Luge
Men's downhill skiing postponed
13 Feb 10 |  Vancouver 2010
Olympics open after luge tragedy
13 Feb 10 |  Vancouver 2010
Day-by-day guide to the Winter Olympics
26 Feb 10 |  Vancouver 2010
British luger faces Olympic fight
08 Oct 09 |  Winter Sports
Sliding into Olympic position
09 Mar 09 |  Luge
Event guide: Luge
10 Jan 06 |  Luge

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