Lugers got 'minimum access' allowed

Updated: February 14, 2010, 8:55 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

A Canadian Olympic official and athlete have defended the level of access granted for international athletes to the Whistler sliding course before the Vancouver Games, after Friday's death of a luger brought into question whether a lack of training may have contributed to his fatal crash.

"We worked very closely with the FIL," Tim Gayda, the Vancouver Organizing Committee's vice president of sports, said Saturday of the International Luge Federation, according to The Globe and Mail of Toronto. "... And largely we've lived up to those obligations and surpassed them."

Earlier in the winter, the American team had complained of the tight restrictions the Canadian team placed on use of the Whistler track, which was seen as an example of simple gamesmanship. The Canadians were expected to do well during the Games, and they limited access to the track to preserve a competitive advantage.

"The athletes received the minimum access as stated by [FIL]," Canadian luger Samuel Edney said. "Canada did what any other host country would do."

Nodar Kumaritashvili's fatal crash came after 26 total practice runs on the Whistler course, built in 2007 on Blackcomb mountain.

"I had only 40 runs down this track, which is one of the fastest and most difficult in the world," U.S. bobsledder Steven Holcomb said. "That's just not a good situation to start with. You're looking at top drivers, we had three world champions in a row crash in the 50/50 curve in training week earlier this year, so it's not like it's [just] the little guys crashing, it's the big dogs.

"It's a challenge for everybody so I think keeping it close and not letting people have access to it kind of made it difficult for people to get training on it and now, we have Olympic ice, which is going to be faster than ever, it makes it harder and harder and little mistakes become big mistakes, and big mistakes end in tragedy."

USA Luge CEO Ron Rossi said the track's pre-Olympic availability should be examined.

"They need to be asking questions about lack of training time," Rossi said, according to The Globe and Mail. "Lack of track-designer accountability. I'm going to propose a rule change, to fine the track designers when things like this happen. I'm going to propose rule changes so there is more training time for all."

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Howard Bryant was used in this report.

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