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2010 Winter Olympics: U.S. team auctioning race suit for fallen slider

WHISTLER, British Columbia — The U.S. Luge team hopes to bring a small measure of comfort and help to the family of the Georgian luge athlete who was killed the day before the Olympic Games began.

The tragic death of 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili stunned the athletes who shared his love of luge. Many have searched for a way to help his family in the wake of the tragedy.

The Olympic race suit worn by Tony Benshoof will be signed by all 10 members of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Luge Team and auctioned on eBay.

"I feel like it's the least I can do," said Benshoof, who is a native of White Bear Lake, Minnesota. "It's a small contribution, but we hope to collect a fair amount of money for his family. There have been lots of conversations about it still. Nodar's memory hangs heavy and it's the No. 1 topic of conversation. When I meet someone new and tell them what I do, that's the next question."

Benshoof took eighth place in the individual competition, which took place just days after Kumaritashvili's death.

A memorial to him, including flowers and candles, sits in one of Whistler's Plazas.

A similar auction by Hannah Campbell-Pegg of Australia is now approaching $2,000.

"By auctioning one of our Olympic race suits, we hope we can in some small way show the Kumaritashvili family that Nodar will remain in the hearts and minds of those in the luge community," said USA Luge Team Manager Fred Zimny. "We were saddened by his passing and wanted his family to know that the U.S. Luge Team honors Nodar as a fellow Olympian."

Internet browsers can go to the following Web site to engage in the auction process.

cgi.ebay.com/Signed-USA-Luge-Olympic-Race-Suit-from-Vancouver-2010_W0QQitemZ290407657152QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUS_Olympics_Fan_Shop?hash=item439da52ec0#ht_500wt_1132

"Our entire team was saddened by the tragic death of Nodar which occurred on the same day as the Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Games," continued Zimny. "The luge community is a tight-knit group of people and everyone knows everyone else. Nodar was part of that family, and he will be missed by all."

The American sliders marched into the Opening Ceremonies honoring Nodar's memory by wearing a black ribbon on the collar of their jackets affixed by a Republic of Georgia Olympic pin.

"It's a small way to show our respect to a fallen friend," said Zimny.

The IOC is contributing to the construction of a luge track named for Kumaritashvili in his hometown in the Republic of Georgia.

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com