Designer shocked by luge death

FRANKFURT (AP) — The man who designed the Olympic luge course on which a Georgian slider was killed says he is surprised by the death and track walls may have to be raised, an opinion shared by a three-time Olympic champion.

"We've already designed six Olympic courses," designer Udo Gurgel told Sport-Bild magazine's online edition. "No one has been thrown from the track before."

Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed at nearly 90 mph coming out of the final turn in training Friday at the Vancouver Games.

Gurgel said the usual speed at the finish is under 75 mph, and "normally every slide should be under control. He must have been shot out like a bullet.

"Now one should think how the course can be altered," he said, suggesting one possibility that the wall be raised about 15 to 20 inches.

Georg Hackl, Germany's former three-time luge champion, agreed.

"They have to put high wooden boards there, then the luger doesn't fly off but hits the plank, falls back to the track and slides down," Hackl told the online edition of the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Hackl said a small driving error and not the speed of the track was to blame.

"It's a track that's significantly faster than any other tracks that we know," Hackl told the newspaper. "At the beginning, it was a great challenge for the athletes. But it's their job to master these demands. And they have. They all have the track under control, including the Georgian. Such a tiny driving error, it can happen."

"He simply was too late coming into the final curve," he added. "What happened was something that no one in the luge world could have imagined for possible."

Hackl said luge specialists assume that the competitors who crash will remain on the track and not fly off.

"In luge accidents are part of our daily routine. In the run before, Armin Zoeggeler, the world's best luger, had a spectacular crash. That's normal. You stand up, shake yourself and ride again.

"We assume that those who crash will stay on the track and we don't pay too much attention to the structures outside the track."

Hackl said the decision to have the men begin from the women's start was made "to please those who don't know anything about the sport."