Death of Nodar Kumaritashvili Reminds World of Dangerous of Winter Olympic Sports

Even here in Houston, TX, where winter means we put on a light jacket, many are glued to the TV watching the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The athlete’s focus and dedication is inspiring and we’re disappointed to see it come to an end after eighteen days of competition. I’ve overheard kids ask their parents for a snowboard, even though there is no place to use it in Houston. This is what the Olympic games are all about.

On February 12th, 2010, at the Opening Ceremony, a moment of silence was observed in honor of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luge slider who died in a training run on the Vancouver luge track. The moment was a chilling reminder to all the athletes from around the world that were there that night that many of the winter games aren’t without risk.

The Winter Olympics separate themselves from the Summer Olympics by the high level of risk involved with many of these sports. Running, swimming, and track and field do not even compare to luge, ski jumping, alpine downhill skiing, and half pipe snowboarding in respects to real danger to the athlete. Many people watch the winter games and feel a rush of sheer thrill because the athletes are doing things that seem crazy to some and near impossible to others.

Nodar Kumaritashvili participated in a sport that few have the opportunity to ever try, luge. Luge is a sport in which a person lays on their backs on a luge, which is an aerodynamic sled, and speed down a half enclosed ice tube at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. If an athlete makes any mistakes the end result is almost always life threatening, as what was the unfortunate fate of Nodar. The luge track is also used for bobsledding and skeleton and can be just as dangerous for these sports as well.

Although many winter games are noted for their extreme speeds and heights, this does not mean that caution should be avoided in order to increase these two factors. Many athletes and experts commented that the Vancouver luge track was simply too fast and therefore dangerous. Unfortunately nothing was done to fix the track until it was too late and Nodar was fatally killed. Hopefully this 21 year old Georgian luge sliders story will help to caution and improve safety protocols for more winter sports so that the amazing athletes from all over the world will be as safe as possible for future winter games.

Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist in private practice in Houston, TX. He is dedicated to maintaining the health and safety of the feet of his patients and educating the public on foot health. For more information about foot health and solving foot pain, including informative videos, and to order Dr. Schneider’s FREE book, visit and his blog

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