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Luge marks one-year anniversary of Georgian's death

By Gennady Fyodorov

PARAMONOVO, Russia (Reuters) - The luge community marked the anniversary of Nodar Kumaritashvili's death on Saturday, paying tribute to the Georgian killed on the eve of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

The 21-year-old died just hours before the opening ceremony after losing control of his sled on a practice run. He was thrown off the track and slammed into a metal support post.

"Exactly one year ago we had the worst day in the history of our sport," International Luge Federation (FIL) president Josef Fendt told a crowd in the small town of Paramonovo, about 40-km north of Moscow.

"In the memory of Nodar Kumaritashvili we shall never forget this tragic day and we have come here to pay our respects and remember a young athlete, one of our own."

Kumaritashvili was also remembered in his mountain village of Bakuriani where his family and Georgian sports officials gathered at his grave.

A coroner's report said Kumaritashvili's high speed and relative inexperience on a new Olympic track contributed to the crash.

His father, however, was not satisfied with the investigation and has written to the International Olympic Committee demanding a follow-up.

Fendt said FIL was doing everything possible to make the dangerous sport safer, including the changing of track designs, before adding that accidents could still happen.

HAUPTMAN CRASH

On Wednesday, Canadian Brendan Hauptman received concussion and injured his chin in an accident during training for an inaugural World Cup luge event in Paramonovo.

"Unfortunately the season is over for him but he may start training again over the summer."

Officials have also blamed Hauptman's crash on his inexperience but Russia's Albert Demchenko, 39, one of the most experienced lugers in the sport, had a different view.

"It doesn't matter how old you are or how much experience you have, if you make a mistake you're going to pay the price for it," Demchenko told Reuters.

"Luge is a dangerous sport. With the (high) speeds we're going, even a slight mistake can be fatal," said the Russian who has competed in five Olympics, winning a silver medal at the 2006 Turin Games.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)