Wednesday, May 18, 2011

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SAIT Polytechnic to study trajectory, safety of Whistler sliding track
The Calgary college SAIT Polytechnic is undertaking a comprehensive look at the track where Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a training run the day the 2010 Winter Olympics opened. An independent safety audit was one of the recommendations of B.C. coroner Tom Pawlowski following his investigation into the crash last year.

A SAIT research group from the Sports and Wellness Engineering Technology department will conduct a three-dimensional scan of the track, trajectory modeling, design and safety audits and a study of in-track incidents.

"What sets this apart is the comprehensive five components," SAIT's Dr. Alex Zahavich said Tuesday. "There have been studies of tracks for individual things that they may have looked at, but never a fully integrated project like this. "If there's any opportunity to improve safety, recommendations will be put forward for Whistler to act on."

Researchers started collecting data in Whistler a few weeks ago because information needed to be compiled with ice still on the track, he explained. The three-dimensional scan of the 1,450-metre track will done with the help of a global positioning system, or GPS.

Zahavich has a history in sport science as he worked with Own The Podium's Top Secret project to give Canadian athletes technological advantages at the Games. SAIT bid for the contract to conduct the study and Whistler Sport Legacies awarded it to them in March. Zahavich expects to present WSL with his team's findings by late October.

Whistler Sport Legacies took over operation of the track in June 2010. The organization hasn't asked SAIT for specific findings, says marketing manager Patricia Lesie, but for a wide-ranging analysis of the venue. "We've had one winter of sliding knowlege for ourselves and with no incidents over the last winter, using the same start positions as the Olympics," Leslie said. "We don't have a sense there are any particular issues at this time.

"We don't know what the results of the report will be. We're looking forward to the results of the study because it is going to be extremely comprehensive." Kumaritashvili made a driving error on turn 15 of the course and his sled catapulted him into an exposed metal pole. What followed was an intense debate over what was to blame for his death: the slider's inexperience; unsafe speeds the track produced; or both. --- READ MORE

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