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'Vertical forces' led to Olympian's death

Jan. 17, 2013 at 12:11 PM
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OTTAWA, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- A curve in the luge track's ice caused a Georgian athlete to become airborne, hit a post and die at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, a U.S. researcher says.

"Very large vertical forces" launched Nodar Kumaritashvili over the wall and into a support post, said Mont Hubbard, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California at Davis, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Thursday.

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Hubbard was interviewed as part of a three-year investigation by the CBC into Kumaritashvili's death.

Kumaritashvili was traveling at nearly 90 miles per hour when the right runner of his sled, coming down high from the outside wall, hit a curved joint of the track where the sidewall meets the floor.

Hubbard said the interaction created enough force "to shoot, to give him upward velocity and to allow him to pass over the wall."

Hubbard's scientific analysis is the first of the deadly accident.

The International Luge Federation, in its official explanation, said the sled compressed and then acted like a spring, catapulting Kumaritashvili off the track.

Hubbard termed the ILF's explanation a "non-explanation."

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