How it happened, that's no longer truly in question.
Why it happened, that will likely never be answered.
In simplest terms, that explains the conundrum still wrestled with by many people in the luge world, some of whom will gather outside of Moscow on Saturday to again celebrate -- and again mourn -- Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, the slider who lost control of his sled and died in a training wreck just hours before the start of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
He went from unknown to unforgettable in a matter of three seconds, all the time it took for Kumaritashvili to steer himself into trouble toward the bottom of the course at the Whistler Sliding Center, crash into the track walls near the finish line, catapult off the sled, sail helplessly over the side of the concrete chute and collide into a steel support beam at 89.4 mph.
Months later, a coroner would confirm what was painfully obvious to those who saw it happen: He died right then and there.
"This is something that's with you every single day," said Svein Romstad, the secretary general of the International Luge Federation, the sport's worldwide governing body. "It's gone very fast, but very slow. There's a reminder every single day."
The latest of those reminders will come Saturday. A ceremony is planned in Paramonovo, Russia, the site of this weekend's World Cup luge circuit stop. USA Luge athletes will have black stickers -- "In Memory of Nodar Kumaritashvili," they say -- adorning their sleds, and have invited sliders from other nations to join them in the gesture.
"I think everyone's looking for a villain, and in essence, there isn't one," said Tim Gayda, who was the director of sport for the Vancouver Organizing Committee. "That's part of the frustration. People are still looking for someone to blame. And really, it's a very difficult thing to point blame at anyone."
Nonetheless, blame is pointed at many.
In the first hours following Kumaritashvili's death, his family -- which has deep roots in luge -- and other members of the Georgian Olympic federation lashed out against both Vancouver organizers and the FIL. Kumaritashvili had only 26 runs in the span of about a year down the treacherous ice to get ready for the Olympics, crashing on four of them.
Some said the course was too fast. Some said the training conditions weren't fair. Some members of the Georgian delegation contended that Kumaritashvili's vision was impaired by shadows on the ice because shades -- attached to the track lip to protect the ice from excessive sunlight or precipitation -- were improperly used.
It wasn't just Kumaritashvili who had problems on the Whistler track, either. Many luge athletes, including some of the world's elite, crashed either in competition or training during the Olympics. Some required hospitalization, some were concussed, and no shortage of bobsled and skeleton competitors echoed their luge brethren in wondering about the track's safety.
And just this week, a series of e-mails were released, revealing conversations between VANOC chief John Furlong and members of his staff about ongoing talks about the fears of trouble at the Whistler track. Most of the dialogue was in response to FIL concerns that the track being built in Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympics would be faster than engineers promised, which was the case in Whistler as well.
"An athlete gets badly hurt or worse and I think the case could be made we were warned and did nothing," Furlong wrote on March 24, 2009. "That said I'm not sure where the exit sign or way out is on this."
Furlong said this week the FIL asked for about 30 changes to the Whistler track, all of which were completed before the Olympics.
"When the track was opened, there were a lot of comments about it being fast," Furlong said. "Most of them were celebratory comments. People were very happy. They had a good track. It was exciting, it was different ... everybody was happy. Nobody from FIL ever picked up the phone and called me and said, 'John, this is a problem."'
In a book he has written about his experience leading VANOC, Furlong revealed that Kumaritashvili's family received $150,000 in insurance money after his death.
In Georgian money, that's probably equivalent to a lifelong worker's salary.
It was no consolation, however. Kumaritashvili's father David, who heads the Georgian Luge Federation, did not respond to e-mail requests for comment about the anniversary of his son's death. He has said several times since the Feb. 12, 2010 incident that not enough was done to ensure athlete safety and that the fatal crash "simply should not have happened."
A coroner's report, issued 235 days after the death, said "best practices" were followed by track and event officials.
"The relative lack of experience Mr. Kumaritashvili had on this challenging track set a backdrop for the incident and was a significant disadvantage, as far as safety was concerned, for the athlete entering the high pressure environment of the Olympic Games," wrote coroner Tom Pawlowski.
After Kumaritashvili's death, the FIL decided to shorten the Olympic course, trying to keep speeds down. In that respect, it worked. In other respects, the move was a debacle.
Learning how to drive the track from a different start position was a huge challenge for racers. Canadians lamented it took away the home-ice advantage. American sliders struggled mightily. The start is critical to luge, and most Olympians -- even after the training death -- did not want the course changed.
"We just wanted to get it behind us as quickly as possible," U.S. women's racer and 2009 world champion Erin Hamlin said. "There's not a lot of talk about it anymore."
Luge is scheduled to return to Whistler in each of the next two sliding seasons. As of now, international officials have not certified the course as safe from the original starts -- just the Olympic starts. That may change before next season, although some inside the sport wonder if Whistler should host a World Cup next year and the 2013 world championships as planned.
When luge returns, the questions will remain. And that day, like Saturday, will be a difficult one for many who were there that day.
"What if he started at the women's start? What if he started at the junior start? I don't know what the little component was that would have prevented this," Romstad said. "It's easy to sit back and say, if he had gone from the women's start from Day 1, it wouldn't have happened. But we don't know."