We urgently need to talk

The tragic suicide death of champion New Zealand cyclist Olivia Podmore last week has rocked the Kiwi sporting fraternity to the core and it’s shocked sportspeople around the globe. This was a beautiful young human being in not only the sporting prime of her life at 24 years of age, but in the prime of life full stop.

She seemingly had a whole world of opportunities, excitement and adventure at her finger tips, but unbeknown to anyone else but herself, the deadly BLACK DOG of depression must have been eating away at her inside.Her tragic death desperately needs a careful and detailed inquiry into what caused Olivia to reach a stage of such despair in her life that she could no longer cope.

Was it the pressures coming from her life in the limelight as an elite international cyclist and the huge expectations from both the athlete and her coaches and high performance wing to succeed.

Athletes in various sports around the world are now thankfully speaking out. Taking actions to relieve the pressures of performing in a fish bowl environment where your every move both on and off the sports fields are scrutinised and the pressures compound.

For goodness sake sport is supposed to be fun, not bloody life threatening. Something is desperately wrong and it’s got to be urgently addressed .

England cricket star Ben Stokes, champion gymnast Simone Biles, tennis star Naomi Osaka, New Zealand women’s cricketers Amelia Kerr and Sophie Devine are among those who have taken time out from sport to look after their mental health.

We all extend our sincere condolences and best wishes to Olivia Podmore’s family and friends. We hope this story and Jason’s interview helps some way in breaking down the barriers to communication, trying to stem these tragic suicides which are sadly of epidemic proportions in both New Zealand and Australia.

Former New Zealand track cycling star Jason Allen, originally from Blenheim in New Zealand, now living in Christchurch, knows all too well the pressures of competing at the top level.

Jason was part of the New Zealand Commonwealth Games bronze medal winning team pursuit in 2006 in Melbourne. He won six World Cup track medals including a gold, on top of 20 national titles and was also a very accomplished road racing cyclist.

He twice won the Marlborough Sportsperson Of The Year title in 2000 and 2005 and following the tragic death of Olivia Podmore, he posted the following heart felt piece on Facebook.

Jason also kindly joined ABSOLUTELY FAMOUS for an interview and gave some very revealing insights into the pressures of competing at international level and being constantly under the performance microscope.

We all extend our sincere condolences and best wishes to Olivia Podmore’s family and friends. We hope this story and Jason’s interview helps some way in breaking down the barriers to communication, trying to stem these tragic suicides which are sadly of epidemic proportions in both New Zealand and Australia.

"It is absolutely totally ok to be not ok"

So young, so talented, and suffering so terribly and so silently that no one knew, or knew she needed help to the extent that at 24 years old, the lights went out.

I don’t know the inner turmoil she was facing where this outcome was better than living another day, all I know is we all need to get better at talking about it, a lot better.

Mental health is not a weakness, it needs to be treated more like an injury, where you get re-hab, help with doctors etc, rest, until you feel better again, instead of feeling like you have to hide it away for fear of looking silly or weak.

It is absolutely ok, to not be ok, and its ok to ask for help, without fear or prejudice.

Initiatives like gumboot Friday need to be funded and funded quickly, before terrible tragedies like this keep on happening, Liv was just 24, she hadn’t even started life properly yet.

RIP Liv, you will be missed, way more than you probably ever knew.
**Tribute Posted by Jason Allen earlier this week

Interview & Words by John Alexander | Header Image taken by Tony Stretch. Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.

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