Track cyclist Olivia Podmore has died at the age of 24. She represented New Zealand at the Olympic Games in Rio back in 2016 and competed at last year’s World Championships.
She was not selected to race in Tokyo, but became the New Zealand keirin champion in 2017 and rode in the women’s team sprint event in Rio.
Podmore died just hours after an Instagram post in which she explained the struggles of competing at an elite level.
“Sport is an amazing outlet for so many people, it’s a struggle, it’s a fight but it’s so joyous,” she wrote.
“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 a owning a house, marriage, kids all because [you’re] trying to give everything to your sport is also unlike any other.”
Cycling New Zealand released a statement in response to Podmore’s death, offering their deepest sympathies to the friends and family of the Christchurch-born rider.
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“Olivia was a much loved and respected rider in our Cycling New Zealand squad,” the statement read.
“At this time we are providing support to our staff and riders, the cycling community and those that were close to Olivia.
“Cycling New Zealand extend our deepest sympathies to Olivia’s family at this time and we ask that the media respect the privacy of Olivia’s family, friends and our riders.
“We offer our deepest condolences to family, friends and others in the NZ community who are grieving this loss.
“We are providing wellbeing support for members of her team and the wider team as we return home from Tokyo.
“Olivia represented New Zealand with honour and pride at both the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“She was a valued team member and her loss will be felt across the New Zealand Sporting Community.”
Podmore’s death has been referred to the coroner, with a police spokesperson confirming they attended a sudden death at a property in Cambridge, New Zealand on Monday evening.
Her brother, Mitchell Podmore, posted a heartfelt message on social media after the news was confirmed.
“Rest in peace to my gorgeous sister and loved daughter of Phil Podmore. You will be in our hearts forever,” he said.
Meanwhile, former Olympic cyclist Eddie Dawkins called on the sport’s governing bodies to take action in ensuring the wellbeing of their athletes.
“I hope Cycling New Zealand get their day, I hope High Performance Sport get their day,” he said.
“Surely there were red flags with Liv. Where was the movement? Where was the discussion … around making sure she’s alright and getting the help she needs?”