The 2010 Winter Olympic Games at Vancouver, Canada began with the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia.
Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled during a practice run on the new track constructed for these Olympic Games. Considered the fastest track ever built, Kumaritashvili lost control of his luge sled at the bottom of the hill at 90 mph. Emergency personnel were able to get to him within seconds but weren’t able to revive him. A tragic loss.
Kumaritashvili’s death was the fourth in the history of the Winter Games, the first since 1992. All four deaths occurred during practice, none have happened during the competitions.
The Winter Olympics are inherently more dangerous than the Summer Olympics. The competitions involve tremendous risks to the Competitors.
No other sports feature humans racing downhill on a sled or a pair of skis at 90 miles per hour with only a helmet on their head for protection. No other sport has humans put on a helmet, jump off ramps, and fly 110+ meters to land on two boards stuck to their feet.
You think falling at your local ice rink hurts? Fall after your partner has thrown you 10 feet in the air and you have completed four twists. Fall on the ice at 30-35 miles per hour, the speed some of the racers at this Olympics will reach.
Did you see the “Follow down the Hill” camera on the Moguls? They were flying down the hill. The snowboard races are fast and the half-pipe is unreal. “Get more air” and “Catch more air” are common terms we will hear for two weeks.
These competitions require a willingness to walk the fine line between safety and injury. Unfortunately, it’s only after a death occurs that we realize the line was crossed at too high a cost.
Humans are curious.
Humans have always wanted to know what is on the other side of the hill, what is on the bottom of the ocean, or what is on the surface of the moon. If you tell us “It can’t be done” someone will step up to prove you wrong. Humans will find a way to build a better mousetrap. We can’t help it.
Humans want to know how things work. We are driven to understand the world on which we exist. How? Why? Where? When? But sometimes the answer to these questions aren’t enough to satisfy us.
We don’t have wings? We find a way to fly. We don’t have gills? We find a way to explore the oceans. We can’t run faster than other animals? We find a way to break the speed of sound or escape the pull of gravity.
Humans are competitive.
There is something within humans that compels us to go higher, faster, and farther than ever before. But sometimes it’s not the competition among ourselves, it’s the competition within ourselves.
The desire to “Be the best we can be” has allowed the human race to produce Mozart, Sir Issac Newton, Plato, Marie Curie, and Einstein. This desire has produced Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Jim Brown, Babe Zaharias, and Jesse Owens.
Humans are mortal.
Sir Edmund Hillary’s response to the question, “Why did you climb Mt. Everest?” is infamous. “Because it was there.”
What we have forgotten are the people who left the base of Mt. Everest to climb to the skies and never came back. Death is a part of life. Sports are a part of life. And, at times, death is a part of sports.
There’s a reason the Olympics uses a torch as a symbol of the fire that burns within each human to become a champion; to go higher or faster or farther than is humanly possible.
This desire burned bright in the heart of Nodar Kumaritashvili.