Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Death of an Athlete

Today in a small town, somewhere in Russia, friends and family will gather to say goodbye to the young Georgian Luger, Nodar Kumaritashivili.
Nodar as you know was killed in a practice run on the luge track in Whistler, BC. He had even called his Dad earlier and said the track scared him. This is remarkable because Nodar was trained to ride his luge down an icy slope and expected to reach incredible speeds. He knew he'd be cookin', but this track was too fast.He was scared. When someone who knowingly hurls himself down an icy slope while riding a small fiberglass sled, knowing he will reach speeds of 85 mph on a regular basis tells you he is scared there is something wrong.
Nodar died doing something he loved. He died preparing himself for an Olympic event. He was representing his country and had hoped to medal.
This is sad on so many levels. His family, his friends, his teammates, his countrymen, anyone who knew the young guy. His age, too. Only 21. Too young to die at all. Sadder still, was the networks decision to keep showing the crash. And it wasn't just him flying off the course, out of sight. No, you saw him fly off the course and strike an unpadded cement column at 88 mph.

From a very young age, little boys (okay and some little girls) dream of becoming athletes. We want to play a sport for a living. We admire our sports heroes. We see them on tv, we read about them in the papers. They become a part of our everyday lives. We hang on their every word, every action, every success and every failure. When we grow up, we want to be them. To replace them. We want to excel and we want to be the best. We want the money, the adoration of fans, to make our parents proud,
to be the best in our field. Some people would prefer to be on the pitch at Old Trafford, the frozen tundra of Lambeau field, maybe hitting the ice at the Boston Garden, while some of us (including the author) would prefer to stand at short-stop in the idyllic baseball shrine that is Fenway Park.
Once we get a little older and we realise we will never reach that dream, we revert to our hero worship. We watch these talented men and women and we live vicariously through them. We enjoy the talent and the speed and the skill....the things that make them great athletes. All the things we could never quite do.

So when something tragic happens, all of us that love sports, that admire athletes, it affects us. It saddens us as we think about how this person died doing something they love and how they may never acheive the goals they set for themselves or how they may never accomplish more than they have.

The Olympics will carry on, the best athletes in the world will continue to vie for a spot on the platform and we will watch. Memorials have sprung up around Olympic village for Nodar, I'm sure he will always be remembered. But I'm hoping he is remembered for being a fine young athlete who died doing something he loved, and not just 'the guy who died luging at the Olympics'.

To Nodars family, I offer my condolences. I wish you peace and comfort in your time of mourning.


Madam Z said...

It certainly is tragic that this young man died, whether he was doing what he loved or not. If I had been Nodar's father, I would have told him to trust his judgement and not go on that vicious track. But, I guess fathers don't give that kind of advice. Mothers do, and boys ignore it. I've always been glad that I was born a female and not required to do dangerous, crazy stuff.

You did a good job of explaining the motivation of athletes and the devotion of the sports lovers.

Jud said...

What could anyone add to your tribute? Well written, sir.