A man in charge of the 2014 Olympic luge, bobsled and skeleton venue called it “one of the safest tracks in the world,” but reportedly refused to guarantee no repeat of the training accident that killed a luger at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
“If an athlete comes here and doesn’t have enough experience of negotiating these kinds of tracks … I can’t give any kind of guarantee whatsoever,” Vyacheslav Shavlev told R-Sport. “This (safety) is the responsibility of the coach and the competition organizers. I answer for the track, and today, in my opinion, the track is extremely safe.”
Athletes criticized the Sanki Sliding Center track in February, not because of safety but because of bumpy ice conditions.
Russia’s top luger, Albert Demtschenko, said speeds of 77 miles per hour were reached in August training, according to R-Sport. Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was believed to be traveling 89 mph in Whistler when he crashed and died on Feb. 12, 2010.
Then, the elite lugers were faster than Kumaritashvili in training, but after the Georgian’s death the start was moved down to the women’s/doubles start to reduce speed. German Felix Loch traveled 91 mph en route to the 2010 Olympic title, according to Agence France-Presse.
In 2012, Russia luge coach Valery Silakov told RIA Novosti that the track is “not very challenging” and “it’s unlikely that there will be a lot of falls.”
“As soon as you pick up a little speed you hit an uphill section that slows you down,” U.S. Olympic bobsled champion Steve Holcomb said after taking his first runs on the track in February.
American lugers tested out the track in November 2012, competed at a World Cup in March and plan to go back for one more training week this November.
“They added some uphill sections to the track to slow down the speed, so it doesn’t see the high speeds we had in Vancouver,” said American Julia Clukey, who finished 10th at the Sochi World Cup stop. “It’s certainly still a challenging track. … Having that fluid rhythm on the track is not that easy to get.”