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Luge dreams live on in family of Georgian who died

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 23, 2014 at 7:11 am •  Published: January 23, 2014

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — The father of the Georgian luger killed during a training run at the Vancouver Olympics laments that his country will have no one competing in the luge when the games get underway next month in nearby Sochi.

But David Kumaritashvili is optimistic about the future of the sport in Georgia and in his family, with his 1½-year-old grandson destined to follow in the footsteps of his uncle and grandfather.

"At 3 we'll start training him," Kumaritashvili said by telephone from his home in Bakuriani, a mountain ski resort in the former Soviet republic.

His son, Nodar Kumaritashvili, died in 2010 when he lost control of his sled at nearly 145 kph (90 mph), flew off course and slammed into a steel pole. He was 21 and preparing to compete in his first Olympics halfway around the world in Canada.

The 2014 Winter Olympics in neighboring Russia are just up the Black Sea coast from Georgia, but the geographical proximity has not helped to create enthusiasm for the games. Most Georgians are still bitter over a brief 2008 war with Russia that left two separatist territories firmly outside of Georgia's control, including Abkhazia, located just south of Sochi. Russia has troops stationed in Abkhazia and also in South Ossetia.

Tens of thousands of Georgians signed petitions calling for a boycott of the Sochi Games. As a compromise, the Georgian government decided that athletes could take part but no members of the government would go.

Kumaritashvili is pleased that Georgian athletes will be competing in Sochi.

"Sports is sports," he said. "Politics should not be allowed to get in the way."

His only disappointment is that Georgia will have no one competing in the luge after Levan Gureshidze was sidelined by injuries. Gureshidze had gone to Vancouver, but withdrew from the competition after the death of his teammate and friend.

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