Athlete Had Warned About Luge Track comments
Werner Hoeger, who competed in the Turin and Salt Lake Games for Venezuela, said he lost consciousness and sustained a concussion during a botched training run on Nov. 13 after his sled caromed off an opening in the wall near the women’s start ramp. His injury, he said, denied him the opportunity to qualify for these Games. In a volley of letters and e-mail messages sent to Canadian and international luge officials since his crash, Hoeger warned that the track was unsafe and raised the same issues — including a lack of access to practice runs — now being debated after Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia died last Friday.
The Georgian Olympic committee’s top official blamed the track on Thursday. “I exclude the possibility that Nodar was not experienced enough,” Giorgi Natsvlishlili, the committee’s chief, said in televised comments, according to news accounts. “From my point of view the track was at fault.”
As a two-time Olympian, Hoeger had the benefit of experience, but like Kumaritashvili, he was not a medal contender. His highest World Cup ranking was 52nd. At age 56, he was trying to become the oldest competitor in these Games. Kumaritashvili was young and relatively new to elite competition. At age 21, he was ranked 44th in World Cup standings. He had completed 26 runs on the course at Whistler. The Canadian team’s luge athletes made an average of 250 runs.