Luger's Last Words to Father: 'Dad I'll Risk It'

Georgian luger who died at Olympics feared the course.

February 15, 2010, 10:34 AM

MOSCOW, Russia, Feb. 15, 2010— -- The Georgian luger who died at the Vancouver Olympics told his father that he was "very scared" of the turn where he was killed, but said to his dad he wasn't going to hold back.

"What will be will be," his father remembers him saying.

The father of Nodar Kumaritashvili talked with ABC News about his final conversation with his son and how hard it has been, particularly for his wife, to cope with his death.

"I thought that it was the end, I thought it was a nightmare," David Kumaritashvili told ABC News by phone from his home in Bakuriani, about 100 miles from the capital of Tblisi .

"My son was a tough, young, energetic guy. He had been training since 2003 and really loved the sport. He even dreamed about it," his father said.

Kumaritashvili's mother Dodo is doing "very, very badly," the dad said. "She doesn't understand anything. She hasn't eaten for three days and she's being treated by a doctor. I don't know what will happen."

Mrs. Kumaritashvili has covered a table in her home with photographs of her 21-year-old son. Relatives and villagers in the well-known Georgian ski resort have been coming by to pay their respects.

"It is a tragedy for the whole village," said Bakuriani's mayor Levan Shavkani. "We all knew him. We watched him grow up. We all felt proud of him and we are all shocked."

Kumaritashvili died during a practice run on Friday when he lost control of his sled and flew off the track, slamming into an unpadded steel beam at about 90 miles an hour.

Before the accident, Kumaritashvili called his father telling him how he was afraid of a specific part of the run.

"Dad, I'm very scared of this spot on the track," Mr. Kumaritashvili recalls his son saying. "It's very, very fast. But don't worry, I'll handle it well."

"I told him, brake, brake, don't risk it," his father said. "No Dad, I'll risk it," Kumaritashvili told his father. "What will be will be."

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David Kumaritashvili doesn't blame anyone, calling the accident fate. After all, he knows the risks of the sport as a former luger for the USSR. (Another relative was Nodar's coach.)

However, he says that turn 16 was too sharp and had the post not been there, his son would still be alive.

Organizers of the Vancouver Games and the International Luge Federation (FIL) have expressed their condolences, but blamed the death on mistakes by Kumaritashvili, not on any track "deficiencies."

"This is a fast sport and athletes do encounter problems. There was nothing out of the ordinary that signaled there needed to be a change," said Svein Romstadt, the FIL Secretary General. "This track has been operational for two years, and experienced about 5,000 runs."

Georgia's Minister of Sport and Culture called the assertions that the accident was Kumaritashvili's fault "unfair and misleading," telling reporters that Kumaritashvili was well-qualified.

President Mikhail Saakashvili of Georgia also rejected the claim, saying, "With all due respect, one thing I know for sure is that no sports mistake is supposed to lead to death."

A decision was made to shorten the track by about 600 feet and to lower the start, resulting in slower average speeds in the event won Sunday by German Felix Loch. The beam at turn 16, where Kumaritashvili crashed, was covered this time with padding and plywood.

Georgia's Olympians, who have never won a medal at the Winter Olympics, have dedicated the Games to their fallen comrade.

At a press conference on Saturday, Saakashvili announced that a luge track would be built in Bakuriani in Kumaritashvili's honor. He added that the village was central to building up Georgia's winter sports programs and said that a number of facilities are currently planned.

An annual village holiday to be held next Monday has been canceled. Kumaritashvili's body will return to on Wednesday to Bakuriani where he will be buried, the family has not yet decided when.

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