Cycling world champ dies at 23

LOS ANGELES • USA Cycling, the sport's national governing body, mourned the "immense loss" of Olympic silver medallist Kelly Catlin after confirming her death on Sunday.

In an official statement, president and chief executive officer Rob DeMartini said: "Kelly was more than an athlete to us, and she will always be part of the USA Cycling family. We are offering continuous support to Kelly's teammates, coaches and staff."

Catlin finished second in the team pursuit at the Rio Games in 2016 and was also a three-time world champion in the same event.

She was studying for a graduate degree in computational mathematics at Stanford University and was also said to be a talented violinist.

Cycling news website Velo cited her father Mark as saying that Catlin died on Friday at her home in California.

"There isn't a minute that goes by that we don't think of her and think of the wonderful life she could have lived," he wrote to Velo. "There isn't a second in which we wouldn't freely give our lives in exchange for hers. The hurt is unbelievable."

The 23-year-old was one in a set of triplets. Her sister, Christine, wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post. It read: "Catlin was a really special person - kind, funny, empathetic, and talented at literally everything she did.

"She just felt like she couldn't say no to everything that was asked of her and this was her only escape."

In a telephone interview on Sunday night, Christine said: "Everything she did, she was the best at when we were little kids.

"Sports, violin, and she casually picked up cycling. We were the Catlins, so we were this force."

Her brother Colin said he helped push his sister into cycling and that "she didn't really want to, but she (then) started winning things and she likes winning things".

But control was harder to come by for Catlin after crashes last year in which she broke her arm and suffered a concussion, according to family members.

"She couldn't train as well as she used to," Christine said. "She had really bad headaches and was sensitive to light. Then, she tried to commit suicide in January... She had written this lengthy e-mail (to her family) and said her thoughts were racing all the time.

"She was suicidal, her thinking was really dark and had taken to nihilism. We called police the moment we got the e-mail, and they got there in time to save her that time."

After that incident, her family focused on her recovery.

"Just a week or two ago, we were making plans and I was optimistic about her future," Colin said.

"The thing that haunts me is that she called me about 11/2 weeks before (she died) and... she opened up to me about her whole life."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2019, with the headline 'Cycling world champ dies at 23'. Print Edition | Subscribe