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World Cup luge to return to Whistler track

World Cup luge to return to Whistler track

Before the world's top luge athletes race this year at the site of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, they will have an extra few days to learn the nuances of the highly challenging track.
The International Luge Federation is going forward with plans to host a World Cup race next season at the Whistler Sliding Center north of Vancouver. It would be the first time an elite international field will race there since the Olympics, where Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed and died in a high-speed training run hours before the opening ceremony.
Competitors will have the chance for a full week of additional training there before the World Cup stop, something that doesn't happen at many venues on the circuit.
The World Cup race is Dec. 9-10, but athletes are expected to arrive in British Columbia around Nov. 29 for the additional training.
"As there have already been several changes implemented in Whistler, we decided to add a training week so athletes can adjust," FIL secretary general Svein Romstad wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
It's common for newly built tracks, like the one in Whistler, to be modified after opening. Some curve shapes on the lower portion of the Whistler course have been slightly altered and more changes to the track _ possibly major ones _ are under consideration.
Even the start ramps, which were the source of much debate during the Vancouver Games, may change.
The Olympic course was shortened after Kumaritashvili's death in an effort to keep speeds down. FIL held testing at the Whistler track in March and made recommendations to Canadian officials about where to have men's, women's and doubles starts in the future, though no decision is expected until late May or early June.
There is a chance that new starting ramps may be built, and if that happens, athletes may essentially have to relearn just about everything about how to slide on the Whistler track. That would make the additional training week even more vital.
"We are awaiting their response," Romstad wrote. "Regardless, we will proceed with the World Cup next (season). We just have to see if they will be from new starts or the Olympic starts."
Kumaritashvili was on a training run Feb. 12, 2010, when he lost control of the sled in one of the final turns. He crashed into a track wall, was thrown from his sled, sailed over the side of the concrete chute and into a steel support beam, dying on impact from massive head trauma.
Many Olympic luge athletes crashed either in competition or training during those Olympics. Some required hospitalization for concussions, and many openly questioned the track's safety.
Whistler is scheduled to host luge's world championships in 2013.
The 2011-12 World Cup season opens on Nov. 26 in Igls, Austria.