Although Olivia Podmore didn’t compete in the Tokyo Olympics, her death a day after the Games came to a close is reverberating throughout the tight-knit, international athletic community.
After all, the Olympics pushed the topic of mental health to the forefront of any conversation.
On Tuesday, Eric Murray spoke on behalf of the Podmore family during a press conference in Cambridge, New Zealand. He and Podmore were close friends and teammates at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Murray was a champion rower. Podmore was a member of New Zealand’s cycling team. She didn’t make the New Zealand team to Tokyo.
Murray and his girlfriend spent the weekend with Podmore and another friend. He was with her hours before she died.
“I wish she had said something,” Murray told reporters. “Her death is a shock and a tragedy.”
Murray said: “We’ve lost a sister, a friend, and a fighter who lost that will of fight inside of her. … “Olivia may have been the girl that you saw at the supermarket, at the gym, on the track, on TV.
“We’re seeing locally and around the world the implications of mental health in sport,” he said. “And we now have a statistic, and that is one statistic too many.”
Murray Credited Biles, Osaka For Speaking About Mental Health at the Olympics
Murray said because of champions like gymnast Simone Biles and tennis star Naomi Osaka, more people are talking about mental health. Osaka spoke up about it in June, when she declined to speak at press conferences, then withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon. She lit the cauldron at the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics, but lost in the third round.
Meanwhile, Biles withdrew from the Tokyo team competition and all-around, then didn’t participate in individual events for the floor exercise, vault and uneven bars. Biles said that she was suffering from the “twisties,” which she said were exacerbated by anxiety and the pressure of competing at the Olympics. However, she returned for the balance beam and won the bronze medal.
Podmore competed in track cycling at the Rio Olympics. She crashed in a qualifying round and didn’t finish high enough to qualify for the next round.
She was home in New Zealand during the Tokyo Games. And she posted a troubling message Instagram:
“Sport is an amazing outlet for so many people, it’s a struggle, it’s a fight but it’s so joyous.
“The feeling when you win is unlike any other, but the feeling when you lose, when you don’t get selected even when you qualify, when [you’re] injured, when you don’t meet society’s expectations such a owning a house, marriage, kids all because [you’re] trying to give everything to your sport is also unlike any other.”
There is no official cause of death, as yet, from the coroner. Podmore’s friends who competed at the Tokyo Olympics learned about her death as they boarded a flight home. They’re all in quarantine now and are hoping for an exemption to attend her funeral.
Podmore’s comments on Instagram were deleted. Murray said: “With Olivia’s final words she left us a message – a message we wish will never have to be read again by anybody else.”