Olympics world in disbelief after devastating double tragedy

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·Sports Editor
·6-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Cameron Burrell and Olivia Podmore, pictured here before their tragic deaths.
Cameron Burrell and Olivia Podmore both died just days after the Olympics. Image: Getty

The Olympics community is mourning the tragic deaths of two promising young athletes just days after the Tokyo Games.

Cameron Burrell and Olivia Podmore both died this week in a shocking double tragedy that has put the spotlight back on mental health in professional sports.

'INAPPROPRIATE': Shock twist after mayor bites Olympian's medal

'DISASTER': Great Britain caught in shock 'doping' scandal

New Zealand's cycling federation says it will review its mental health support for athletes following the sudden death of Olympian Podmore at the age of 24.

Podmore competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but was not part of New Zealand's team at the recent Tokyo Games.

A New Zealand police spokesman said they attended a sudden death at a property in Waikato on New Zealand's upper North Island on Monday afternoon.

Podmore's cause of death was not confirmed, but a friend had raised concerns about her mental health and sports officials said the cyclist had reached out to support services offered to athletes.

And just 24 hours after Podmore's death, American track star Burrell was also found dead.

A former NCAA track champion and son of two Olympic gold medalists, Burrell died at 26.

Burrell was the 2018 NCAA 100m champion for the University of Houston and anchored the 4x100 relay team that also won an NCAA championship that year. 

The university announced his death on Tuesday with a statement from his father Leroy Burrell.

"My family is extremely saddened with the loss of our son, Cameron, last night," the statement read. 

"We are going through profound sorrow and ask that all of our friends, extended University of Houston family and the track and field community in the US and abroad allow us to gather with our closest family and friends. 

"We are profoundly grief stricken, and thank everyone for the outpouring of prayers and support. We will forward more information when it is available."

Cameron Burrell and Tyson Gay, pictured here at the US track and field Olympic trials in 2016.
Cameron Burrell and Tyson Gay at the US track and field Olympic trials in 2016. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Burrell's parents Leroy and Michelle Finn-Burrell both won gold medals at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. 

Leroy won gold as part of the 4x100 team alongside Michael Marsh, Dennis Mitchell and Carl Lewis that set a world record time of 37.40 seconds. Michelle won a gold medal in the women's 4x100 relay that summer.

Lewis, who also ran at Houston, was Burrell's godfather and is an assistant on Leroy's coaching staff.

Burrell broke his father's school record in the 100m by .01 seconds with a time of 9.93 in 2017. He was a three-time All-American at 60 and 100m and was twice named All-American as a member of the 4x100 relay team.

He won gold as a member of the US 4x100 relay team at the World Junior Championships in 2012 and won gold for Team USA running anchor in the 4x100 at the 2018 Athletics World Cup.

Spotlight on mental health of professional athletes

The issue of athletes struggling with their mental health has been in the spotlight since Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon.

American gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of most of her Olympic gymnastics events in Tokyo, citing a need to take care of her mental health.

New Zealand media reported Podmore had recently described the pressures of elite sport in a post on her social media.

"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 told a media conference.

"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."

Olivia Podmore, pictured here at a fundraising event for the World Equestrian Games team in 2018.
Olivia Podmore (centre) at a fundraising event for the World Equestrian Games team in 2018. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

Former Olympic rowing champion Eric Murray, a friend of Podmore, said he was with her on Monday and described her death as a "shock and a tragedy."

"I wish she had said something," the 39-year-old told reporters in Cambridge, a high performance hub in New Zealand for cycling and other sports.

"We have lost a sister, a friend and a fighter who lost that will of fight inside of her.

"If you had seen her in the last 72 hours, you wouldn't have thought this could happen.

"That's why there's so much talk about mental health at the moment."

High Performance Sport New Zealand boss Raelene Castle said support for athletes in programs was not perfect.

"Her legacy has to be that we make improvements," she told reporters.

with AAP and Yahoo Sports US

Readers seeking support and information can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting