The cycling community, which has its high-performance base in Cambridge, was celebrating an Olympic success then mourning the loss of an Olympian within days.
While Cambridge based Ellesse Andrews goes through quarantine on her return from a successful Tokyo Olympics, whānau of her friend and fellow rider Olivia ‘Liv’ Podmore are planning her funeral.
Podmore, 24, died suddenly in Cambridge on Monday. She had moved to Waipā in 2015 to further her cycling career.
Her death has put the focus on the pressure athletes endure. In a social media message, she had posted, she reflected on the pressure of sport and of not meeting “society’s expectations”.
At a media conference in Cambridge on Tuesday, Cycling New Zealand chief executive Jacques Landry said the organisation will be looking at how Podmore was treated.
“She had a lot of people supporting her through her career and so right now what we are doing is looking back and… ok, well what was that support?”
Podmore hinted at her turmoil in an April social media post where she spoke of her health and relationship woes. She was diagnosed with endometriosis and had surgery to remove cysts.
“My mental health has taken a toll through all this especially with another breakup through this time and past demons have come back to haunt me over the last six months but I’m working through this.
“I’m focused on dropping some hot times and lifts in July this year – Commonwealth Games is the ultimate short-term goal for performing- 2024 Olympics are on my radar and I can’t wait to show the world what I can do.”
In an emotional and eloquent tribute, double Olympic gold medal rower Eric Murray – speaking on behalf of Podmore’s family – said the world was seeing the locally and internationally the implications of mental health in society and sport.
“We now have a statistic, and that is one statistic too many.”
He revealed he had spent time with Podmore in Queenstown a day earlier.
“I was with her this time yesterday and I wish she had said something,” he said.
“Her death is a shock and a tragedy. It reverberates not just through the Cambridge community but also her home in Christchurch.
“Her death also reverberates through the New Zealand cycling team, the New Zealand Olympic team and the worldwide sporting community.
“We have lost a sister, a friend and a fighter… who lost that will of fight inside of her.
“She was loved and will be sorely missed. With Olivia’s final words she left us a message – a message we wish will never have to be read again by anyone else.”