AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — Olivia Podmore, a track cyclist for New Zealand who competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, has died. She was 24. Cycling New Zealand said Podmore died “suddenly” Monday but did not disclose a cause or other details. Podmore also represented New Zealand at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.
In a statement Tuesday, Cycling New Zealand described Podmore as a “much loved and respected rider.” The organization noted that many are “understandably devastated” and, without elaboration, urged people to seek help for mental health if needed. “Be kind to each other and take care of each other,” the statement said.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee said it has begun offering support to athletes and staff on its Olympic team. In a statement, double Olympic rowing gold medalist Eric Murray said he and Podmore had been snowboarding together on Sunday. He was likely the last person to see her alive. Murray said Podmore was a close friend, and when last saw, she was happy and smiling. He said he had no cause to be concerned for her well-being.
Concerns for Olivia Podmore first arose after she posted a message on social media. Police were called to her home at Cambridge, near Hamilton on New Zealand’s North Island, where she was found dead. “With Olivia’s final words, she left us a message, a message that we wish will never have to be read again by anyone else,” Murray said. “We’re seeing locally and around the world the implications of mental health in sport.”
Murray said some of the highest-profile athletes at the Olympics had recently spoken about mental health struggles, and “we now have a statistic, and that is one statistic too many.” “We’ve lost a sister, a friend, and a fighter who lost that will of a fight inside of her,” Murray said.
Sport New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle said some cyclists who recently returned from the Tokyo Olympics were finding it “very difficult” in managed isolation, part of the country’s strict border regulations imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussions with the government to determine whether might give some dispensation from quarantine to attend Podmore’s funeral.
Castle said Podmore had reached out for support before her death.
The head of Cycling New Zealand, Jacques Landry, was asked whether his organization had done enough to support Podmore. He said the sport would be “questioning this for a long time.”
“She had a lot of people supporting her through her career,” Podmore said. “We’re now just looking back … and want to take a step back and review that.”