The Legacy of Nodar Kumaritashvili (November 25, 1988 – February 12, 2010 )



My Loving Art Project is in many ways a legacy to the life of the young Georgian luge athlete who suffered a fatal crash on the opening day of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in Whistler on his last training run when he lost control of his luge on the last turn of the track. The grisly accident was broadcast live around the world. There was no escaping the sudden reality of a young life ending so senselessly. It didn’t make any sense. This was not supposed to happen to a young man with the promise of such a beautiful future ahead of him.

The harrowing event conjured up an instantaneous and global state of  shock.  It was in sharp contrast to the  feelings of elation associated with opening day ceremonies of the Olympic Games. Athletes are the living representation of youth and vitality. The world was deeply marked by the accidental death of Nodar Kumaritashvili on that day. We must never forget him and his beloved family. This is why I feel it is important for me to talk about my experience on that day and how he continues to inspire my life purpose.

My life is forever connected to this young man in the events which unfolded on February 12, 2010. It is a day I will never forget. The very instant that I heard the news of his death is vividly etched in my mind. It was a day that changed my life forever.  The personal journey of transformation I experienced since that day is one of honour, respect and remembrance for a life that was lost tragically and unnecessarily. It is my way of finding meaning in what happened. Through this connection, I have a duty to bear witness to this moment in his life and how it deeply affected my life.

On the morning of February 12th I was driving from Whistler to Vancouver along the beautiful and winding Sea to Sky Highway. In that same moment, Nodar, was standing tall and determined at the top of the luge track. He was about to enter the so-called “fastest” luge track in the world. A short, winding snake of a course involving 16 terrifying and potentially deadly turns. He was about to attempt the formidable turns for the last time. It was also his last attempt at everything in his life. Nodar was only 21.

Little did I know that, I too, was about to face the most terrifying moment of my life. The warm sunshine and the spectacular view of the ocean and mountains matched my feelings of excitement as I was driving the coastal scenic drive. I was a proud Canadian about to live with the rest of the world the promise of an unparalleled opening ceremony in Vancouver. Over a decade of preparation was about to culminate in this beautiful experience of global friendship, peace and celebration.

I was a longtime supporter and enthusiastic citizen of the Olympic Movement. I was involved in my community in welcoming the Olympic Movement into our hearts. I dedicated many hours as a volunteer to realize the dream of the 2010 Winter Games. I feel disbelief now when I look back at the countless days we committed to envisioning what would be our “Olympic experience”. My Olympic experience was radically different and truly unbelievable in ways I never thought possible.

I was absolutely heartbroken when I heard the news of Nodar’s death breaking on the radio as I was driving on February 12, 2010.  I felt these feelings of sorrow as if he were my son. All the athletes, here, for the Games; they were all our children in a way for that two weeks. These were our Vancouver Games. We were supposed to look after these kids. They trusted us to make the most important competition of their lives safe as we would for our own children. My perspective on everything changed for me in that moment. We failed in our most important responsibility. That is OUR reality FOREVER now and nobody should ever forget this. That young man died in our care. That is our truth.

What also happened to me that day was that hours later at a Vancouver hospital I was told by doctors that I too was fighting for my life. Tests that day confirmed that I was battling a life threatening cancer. The next few years of my life would be crazy as a result of aggressive treatments but ultimately I was given a second chance. I am alive today for a reason. I am in health again. I have a voice and creative talents to share. My Loving Art Project is an expression of how I choose to dedicate the rest of my life. It is the most meaningful way that I can use my life energy to help others and to create more of what ultimately makes us all happier in life.

Nodar didn’t get a second chance. I think about this everyday. It changes my life everyday. All the challenges that come my way as I continue on with my life get vetted through this filter of meaning. I am alive; he is not. I am blessed with the gift of life and as a result of this life altering event,  I am living my purpose now. It is what I am here to do. Facing your own mortality is daunting but it is also a powerful experience. I know now how profoundly important it is to live your life consciously. That is a choice you make. Be conscious about what is really important in your life. NOW.

I urge all the athletes about to compete in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games to honour Nodar Kumaritashvili and his short life by living all of their future experiences in perspective of what is most meaningful in their lives. Love yourself and take care of the people you love around you. All that really matters, in the end, is for you to live the moment fully in love. Good luck and blessings to you all.

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