The body of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was returned to his home country on Wednesday, as his parents and countrymen mourned.
Kumaritashvili, 21, was killed during a practice run for the 2010 Winter Olympics last Friday.
The luger’s mother, Dodo Kharazishvili, had to be restrained after she threw herself on her son’s coffin as it traveled toward their home, which is located on a street that has been renamed in Kumaritashvili’s honor.
The family was joined by fellow Georgian luger Levan Gureshidze, who grew up and trained with Kumaritashvili, and was too overcome with grief to compete after his tragic passing.
“How could I take part in competition after that?” he told The Associated Press, as tears filled his eyes.
Georgian alpine skier, Iason Abramashvili, stayed in Vancouver to compete in memory of his teammate.
Although authorities determined that Kumaritashvili was to blame for the crash — which occurred on turn No. 16 of the track in Whistler, British Columbia — his family and teammates maintain that padding should have been installed on the high-speed course before his death. Kumaritashvili struck a steel pole at upward of 90 miles per hour and died several minutes later.
“He mustn’t be blamed,” Kumaritashvili’s father, David, a former Soviet-era luger told the AP. “He was thrown out, but why had they failed to build a protective barrier for such a case?”
Kumaritashvili will be buried on Saturday at a churchyard in the village of Bakuriani, near many of Georgia’s most popular winter sports venues.