'An absolutely gorgeous kid!' - Olivia Podmore's school pens tribute

Olivia Podmore after competing in the Women's Elite Team Sprint qualifying during the New Zealand...
Olivia Podmore after competing in the Women's Elite Team Sprint qualifying during the New Zealand Oceania Track Championships on November 20, 2017. Photo: Getty Images
Tributes are flowing for Olympic cyclist Olivia Podmore, who died suddenly on Monday.

Chief executive Jacques Landry said Cycling NZ was saddened by the shock death of Podmore.

Landry and High Performance Sport NZ's CEO Raelene Castle addressed media yesterday.

Their thoughts went out to family and friends and Cycling NZ was now making sure their well-being was taken care of, Landry said.

As for changing the environment, since the 2018 report, Landry said his KPI was to ensure there was a proper culture in the organisation.

The 2018 report was a review by former Solicitor-General Mike Heron into allegations made about the culture of the cycling high-performance programme, including "claims of bullying, inappropriate behaviour, inappropriate personal relationships, and drinking culture".

Landry said every athlete had full support and Olivia had a lot of support in her career.

As for if they had failed Olivia, Landry said their focus was on those who were still here.

Castle reiterated what he said, the two worked close together on the welfare of their athletes.

They are finding it "very difficult" in MIQ at the moment .

Making sure they have reached out to each coach and cyclist. They had done an excellent job with crisis management, Castle said.

Castle said mental health was very challenging and wasn't black and white even when the best level of support was offered.

She said Olivia had been reaching out to support.

'Gorgeous kid'

Podmore has been remembered by her Christchurch school as a "gorgeous kid" who was "full of heart and enthusiasm".

Mike Vannoort. Photo: Middleton Grange School
Mike Vannoort. Photo: Middleton Grange School
In a statement from Middleton Grange School, principal Mike Vannoort paid tribute to the 24-year-old Podmore, who was a student at the Christian girls' school from 2002 to 2015.

"She was a vibrant young person, full of heart and enthusiasm for all she put her mind to. She gave her best in all that she did and was loved and appreciated by many," Vannoort said.

"Teachers described her as friendly, outgoing, popular, very focused, and driven to succeed – especially with her cycling. She was well liked by her peers and staff alike and was fully involved in all activities at school.

"One staff member described her as 'An absolutely gorgeous kid'."

Podmore represented New Zealand at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Vannoort said due to Podmore's cycling commitments, she was often away from school during her later years, but noted "she would always be diligent to catch up on any missed work".

The Middleton Grange statement said that even with all of her cycling commitments, Podmore managed to achieve NCEA Level 1 and NCEA Level 2, both endorsed with Merit.

"Olivia liaised closely with her dean when trying to juggle all her cycling and training commitments," Vannoort said

"She was so good about letting the teachers know when she was going to be away and trying to catch up work. But her focus was her cycling. In 2015 she was selected to represent NZ at the Junior World Track Cycling Championships in Kazakhstan. She returned from that in mid-October 2015 and on 5th November, 2015, she left for Cambridge to be part of the NZ Track Cycling team.

"Our staff and wider school community who knew Olivia (Liv) are deeply saddened by her sudden passing and our thoughts and prayers are with her family and close friends at this tragic time."

High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) also released a statement saying it was "deeply saddened" by Podmore's death and a "significant amount of work" was being done to support returning Tokyo 2020 Olympic athletes who knew Podmore as they enter MIQ.

"We are very conscious that many of the current New Zealand Olympic athletes and other team members, who knew Olivia, are currently returning to MIQ," HPSNZ said.

"A significant amount of work has been done in advance to ensure the team have the support they need for their physical and mental wellbeing in MIQ, and this work will be ongoing for the duration of their stay."

A number of Kiwi Olympians such as Dame Valerie Adams, Tyla Nathan-Wong and Olivia Chance commented on the NZ Team's Instagram post with black hearts, prayer hands and fern emojis.

Olympic runner Angie Petty commented, "Absolutely heartbreaking. Sending love to her family," while Commonwealth Games hammer throw champion Julia Ratcliffe wrote, "hope you've found some peace Liv, moe mai ra".

Her former teammate Natasha Hansen took to Facebook to share her heartbreak.

"Liv, I'm devastated to have to be writing this. You have broken so many hearts today," she wrote in the post. "We have been through many ups and downs together and shared in so many highs and lows ... The last couple of years has been so great to reconnect on a deeper level but I am devastated that this has come to such a sudden end."

Podmore won silver in the team sprint and bronze in the time trial at the Junior World Champs in Astana in 2015. She was also the 2017 national keirin champion.

In an Instagram post earlier on Monday - since removed - Podmore outlined pressures of competing at the highest level.

Mitchell Podmore, brother of Olivia, posted on Facebook: "Rest in peace to my gorgeous sister and loved daughter of Phil Podmore. You will be in our hearts forever."

In a statement on Monday evening, Cycling New Zealand said its riders and staff "are deeply saddened with the loss of one of our young cyclists".

Where to get help:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• https://www.lifeline.org.nz/services/suicide-crisis-helpline
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202










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