Only the most ardent winter sports fan would have heard of Nodar Kumaritashvili before the tragic accident that claimed his life at the Whistler Sliding Center.
However, the 21-year-old’s involvement in the sport where he was due to make his Olympic debut on Saturday ran in his blood.
Kumaritashvili grew up immersed in winter athletics, with his father Felix a world-class bobsled athlete and coach.
Felix previously coached the French national team and had hoped his son would follow him into bobsled, but the local facilities and the cost of the sport made luge a more sensible option.
In between training and competition, Nodar would help out at the Hotel Saba, the small guest house that the family owns in the picturesque mountain town of Bakuriani, on the fringe of Georgia’s Trialeti Range.
On Friday, as the Opening Ceremony was dedicated to one of the town’s favorite sons, the hotel closed its doors for a period of mourning as a religious service was held as a mark of respect.
On the ice, Felix served as a coach and mentor to his son and was proud to be part of the Georgian delegation for Vancouver.
A week ago, Felix and Nodar left Bakuriani together, driving four hours to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi before the 22-hour trip to Canada.
On Friday, Felix suffered a fate no father should ever have to, witnessing his son die on a training run as Nodar slid down the track at nearly 90 mph before crashing into a metal post, ensuring the world would know his name after the most tragic of circumstances.