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The Olympic community is mourning the sudden death of New Zealand cyclist Olivia Podmore at 24 years old. The rider’s mental health is being looked at as a possible clue into her passing.
Podmore, who represented her country in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and 2018 Commonwealth Games, was reported dead on Monday by multiple outlets. Cycling New Zealand confirmed the news of her death the following day on social media.
Olivia Podmore celebrates a win in the first race for the Elite Women’s Sprint Final during day two of the New Zealand National Track Cycling Championships at the Avantidrome on Jan. 24, 2020 in Cambridge, New Zealand. (Michael Bradley/Getty Images)
Waikato Police reported a sudden death at a property in Cambridge on Monday evening but declined to name a cause of death, according to New Zealand news outlet Stuff.
“Police are making inquiries in relation to the death on behalf of the coroner,” law enforcement said. “The coroner will release their finding in due course.”
A social media post by Podmore just before her passing has many believing that her death may have been related to mental health struggles.
“Sport is an amazing outlet for so many people, it’s a struggle, it’s a fight but it’s so joyous,” she wrote before in the now-deleted post.
“The feeling when you win is unlike any other, but the feeling when you lose, when you don’t get selected even when you qualify, when you’re injured, when you don’t meet society’s expectations such as owning a house, marriage, kids all because you’re trying to give everything to your sport is also unlike any other,” she added.
Olivia Podmore poses during the NZOC cycling Commonwealth Games headshots session on Oct. 18, 2017 in Cambridge, New Zealand. (Michael Bradley/Getty Images)
Sport New Zealand held a press conference on Tuesday that seemingly confirmed her death was related to mental health struggles.
“What I will say is that mental health is incredibly challenging,” Sport NZ CEO Raelene Castle said, via The New Zealand Herald.
“I really wish that we could have a black and white and wrong and right answer for it. but it’s not like that, even when you put the best level of support around that athlete with an open door into psychological services, and offer all those opportunities,” Castle said. “Sometimes they reach out. Olivia had been reaching out into those environments. Why are we here? That’s the question we all want the answer to.”
Fellow Olympian and close friend, rower Eric Murray, said he was with Podmore the day before her death and had no idea something was wrong.
“I was with her this time yesterday and I wish she had said something,” Murray said, via the Herald. “We’ve lost a sister, a friend and a fighter who lost that will of fight inside of her.”
“We’re seeing locally and around the world the implications of mental health in sport,” he continued. “And we now have a statistic and that is one statistic too many.”
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