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Life Lessons

Death at the Olympics

Nothing prepares you for the death of a young athlete.

When luger Nodar Kumaritashvili lost his life yesterday in a training run at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the tragedy spoke to everyone who has ever pursued a goal.

Kumaritashvili, who was from the Republic of Georgia, had trained for years to do exactly what he was doing when he was killed. Even more than that, he was doing what lugers try to do: go as fast as he possibly could.

“(Kumaritashvili) lost his life pursuing his passion,” said Jacques Rogge, head of the International Olympic Committee.

It truly is a passion. Last year, my wife and I attended the luge World Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y. There we watched as the athletes tried to trim every possible split-second off their time. We also gained an appreciation for exactly how fast these lugers go.

We will never forget that first whoosh as the sledders went past the first and second time. Then, as with so many other things in life, you quickly adjust, and the speed becomes routine.

But it’s never routine on the track. Each run is a balance between danger and glory. Speed and steel cannot forgive mistakes. It is the world in which these athletes chose to live. And yesterday, in an eyeblink, this world shut out Kumaritashvili forever.


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