Hauptman escapes from horror crash
Canadian luger Brendan Hauptman has escaped serious injury after a frightening crash during training for an upcoming World Cup race in Russia.
The incident was a sobering reminder of the sport's potential peril nearly a year after a tragic fatality at the Vancouver Olympics.
Hauptman, 23, suffered a concussion and injured his chin but escaped more serious injuries in a wipeout during Wednesday's official training for the inaugural World Cup luge event in Paramonovo, some 30km (18 miles) north of Moscow.
"He just lost control at one of the track's curves, was thrown off his luge, hit his face and lost consciousness," Russian Luge Federation executive director Sergei Shvidenko said on Thursday.
"He was immediately taken to one of Moscow's hospitals for X-rays and was kept there overnight for further observation."
Hauptman's crash brought back memories of the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili just hours before the opening of the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Kumaritashvili, 21, was killed during a practice run on February 12 when he lost control of his luge, flew off the track and slammed into a metal support post.
Kumaritashvili's death brought immediate changes to the design of some of the tracks, where athletes slide down the ice at speeds of up to 93 mph.
Alexander Shakhnazarov, who designed the Paramonovo track, said Hauptman's crash was caused by the athlete's inexperience.
"Honestly speaking, it was his own fault, he committed a common mistake in luge being late coming into the curve, then going out at a wrong angle," Shakhnazarov told local media.
"I'm also a chief judge here so right away I had to cancel training but we'll continue on Thursday. The track is perfectly safe as I see it."
Russia's chief coach Valery Silakov had a slightly different view, however.
"You have to keep in mind that Paramonovo is a new track and it was probably his first run here so he just made a mistake," Silakov said.
"But one thing is for certain, this is a dangerous and risky sport and athletes must be aware of the risks when they are competing at a very top level whether it's in Paramonovo or anywhere else."
Paramonovo, Russia's first and only existing luge track, is hosting its first World Cup event this weekend.