How did Olivia Podmore die? Olympic cyclist's friend slams authorities for draining her mentally

After the death of Olivia Podmore, the New Zealand Olympic Committee said in a statement, 'we offer our deepest condolences'


                            How did Olivia Podmore die? Olympic cyclist's friend slams authorities for draining her mentally
Olivia Podmore poses during the NZOC cycling Commonwealth Games headshots session (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Former New Zealand Olympic cyclist Olivia Podmore died on Monday, August 9, reportedly hours after posting a message on social media about the pressures of competition. Podmore, who represented her country at the 2016 Olympics, was just 24. While Podmore qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games, she was not selected for the New Zealand team.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee said in a statement, "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."

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How did Olivia Podmore die?

As per the New Zealand news outlet Stuff, Podmore’s death is being suspected as suicide. 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.

A Reuters report said that while Podmore's cause of death was not confirmed, a friend raised concerns about her mental health. As per Stuff, Olympian cyclist Eddie Dawkins has called for accountability from Cycling New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand — a Crown Entity Subsidiary established by the Sport NZ Board, with a mandate to "lead the high-performance sport system to new levels of performance" — following the death.

Dawkins reportedly was “devastated” by the news of Podmore’s death. Dawkins, who knew Podmore since she joined cycling at 16, said, “It's a f**king terrible shame that this has happened. My condolences to her family and friends. But I hope, if anything comes from this in a positive light, it's the fact that athletes stand up for themselves. She's always been the most positive, friendly, open person in the New Zealand cycling team and I guess those that are dealing with mental health issues tend to be the ones that can hide it the best. She was a phenomenal athlete. She was powerful and strong. And everything that you can ask for.”



 

“I hope Cycling New Zealand get their day. I hope High Performance Sport get their day. 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,” he said. “It’s not going to be the last time that someone attempts this on themselves. Without positive change and actual change, we're just putting a Band-Aid on the serious issue.”

He alleged that there was an “overarching problem” in High Performance Sport, involving athletes being pushed to the brink, and not talking about their mental wellbeing. He said her death was “avoidable”. Dawkins said, “We need to have a serious conversation about this. Athletes are created to perform for the nation, and make the nation and the coaches and the federations proud, and the ramifications of that. It's draining physically and also mentally.”

As per the Reuters report, New Zealand's cycling federation said it would review its mental health support for athletes following the sudden death. "Right now for us it's about focusing on the wellbeing of the people who are here and having to deal with this loss," Cycling New Zealand Chief Executive Jacques Landry said. "There will be a time for us actually to review and look at if and where we would have had missteps or where we didn't act properly."

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7 by texting HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

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