The New Zealand Olympic Committee has said it is deeply saddened by the sudden death of 24-year-old track cyclist Olivia Podmore and has begun to offer support to other athletes and staff on the New Zealand Olympic Team.
Podmore represented New Zealand at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and a number of other World Championships and major events. She had qualified for the recent Olympic Games but was not selected and did not compete in Tokyo.
According to the Reuters news agency, a New Zealand police spokesman said police attended a sudden death at a property in Waikato on New Zealand’s upper North Island on Monday afternoon.
Podmore’s cause of death was not confirmed by police but, according to Reuters, friends and sports officials said her passing had raised concerns about her mental health.
“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,” the New Zealand Olympic Committee said in a statement.
“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.”
The statement also explained how athletes or other New Zealand team members can access support from the New Zealand Olympic Team psychology team, the Health team, or via sport/NSO psychology and health providers, as well as counselling in the country.
The New Zealand Herald said Podmore had written about the challenges of life as an elite athlete in an Instagram post earlier on Monday that was later deleted.
“Sport is an amazing outlet for so many people, it’s a struggle, it’s a fight but it’s so joyous,” she had written on the social media platform, according to the New Zealand Herald.
“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.”
Former Olympic rowing champion Eric Murray, a friend of Podmore’s, told media in New Zealand that he was with her on Monday and said her death was a “shock and a tragedy”.
“I wish she had said something,” the 39-year-old said. “We have lost a sister, a friend and a fighter who lost that will of fight inside of her.
“If you had seen her in the last 72 hours, you wouldn’t have thought this could happen.”
Born in Christchurch, Podmore won silver in the team sprint and bronze in the time trial at the 2015 Junior World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. She then represented New Zealand in Rio and at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Cyclingnews would like to extend its condolences to Olivia Podmore’s family, friends and teammates.