Tribute, July 19, 2005
January 9, 1976 - July 18, 2005
This is like a death in the family, such is the affection and admiration from all at Cyclingnews.com towards the phenomenal women's cycling teams from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). (See news story on the death of Amy Gillett).
Over the years, this extraordinary group of athletes and coaches has given us plenty to report. Many, many victories and great moments - we didn't have to change our 'international-neutral' approach to reporting because so often, they were on the podium.
Publishing a diary from these riders seemed perfectly natural - they were super-successful and had become the model of a national development team, respected throughout the world. From the first interview with Anna Wilson (now Millward) in 1997 through to the most recent diary from Louise Yaxley, riders from the AIS have openly and honestly shared their dreams, aspirations and successes with the cycling world.
The diaries and their bios showed their sense of fun and respect for each other, and recognition of the the opportunity they had been given.
They received their due recognition last year with the amazing double of the World Cup overall for Oenone Wood and the gold medal in the Athens 2004 road race to Sara Carrigan. In all their victories, the riders would always talk first of their team-mates and their coaches - James Victor and then Warren 'Wazza' MacDonald. Their biggest victories were a result of incredible teamwork on the road, and excellent preparation.
But it was always about their team spirit, their support for each other, their selflessness. It was Sara's victory in Athens in 2004 that helped explain to many, in Australia at least, how road cycling is a team sport, such was their bond and obvious selflessness.
It wasn't so long after Sara crossed the line in Athens that 'Wazza' was planning for the Commonwealth Games in 2006, and then the Beijing Olympics two years later. He was prepared for his star riders, like Wood, Carrigan and Olivia Gollan (the Athens road race team) to go on to much-deserved professional contracts. His next challenge was to develop a new generation of riders and to do that, the most promising Australian riders were selected to work towards that goal.
That was the team that was struck yesterday in Germany. The death of Amy Gillett and serious injuries to Alexis Rhodes, Louise Yaxley, Katie Brown, Lorian Graham and Kate Nichols will rob not only Australia but the world of cycling of some of its most promising riders. We hope the survivors can fully recover and we're sure they will display the same fighting spirit they were known for in their racing. The Australians were admired, respected and loved by their competitors, and the start of the Thuringen-Rundfahrt has been cancelled out of respect for this team.
Every cyclist has all-too-often had their brushes with death; the cars and trucks that have swerved or braked way too close, approached too quickly from behind, as we ride along, looking slightly above and thinking, "he's going to see me and go around". The fact I'm writing this means they have, for me at least.
It's now almost five years since Cyclingnews had to report on the untimely death of Nicole Reinhart, one of America's most promising riders, and at that time, we felt the cruelty of a beautiful and talented young woman being taken from us. We hoped it would never happen again, but how fate is decided is beyond our control, or our wishes. We can only offer our deepest sympathies to those who've lost their daughter, their wife, relative, team-mate and friend. We respectfully count ourselves among the latter.
(We love them so much, a former AIS rider, Kristy Scrymgeour, is now the Cyclingnews' USA representative, and Kristy brings the same team spirit and commitment to CN that was a feature of that squad.)
More tributes and comments on the death of Amy Gillett
Australian Prime Minister, John Howard: "I would like to express my great sadness about the terrible accident which has affected the Australian women's cycling team in Germany. It's one of those awful tragedies."
"On an occasion like this when an accident occurs overseas, it's always I guess in a starker situation and the shock is greater. I extend my condolences and sincere thoughts to all of those who have been affected."
Australian Federal Sports Minister, Rod Kemp: "It's a very sad day for Australian sport and it's a tragedy for the individuals involved and their families. It's probably the worst accident in sport that we've had for a very long time and our hearts go out to these young cyclists, particularly of course to the family of Amy Gillett."
Jenny Macpherson, AIS team rider: "She just so strong and was always willing to be there for the team. She's just such a lovely person and was so happy. I'm in shock that it's happened, not only to Amy but to the rest of the team that are still seriously injured."
Thomas Wilder, Laguna Niguel, California, USA: "I just want to send my condolences to the family and friends of Amy Gillett, and also prayers to the other team members injured and still fighting for life after being hit by the car in Germany. This is just horrible news. Fight hard, girls, fight hard."
Julia Massey, Australia: "I was so shocked and saddened to read on cyclingnews.com of Amy's death in such dreadful circumstances. My heart goes out to her family, friends and team-mates, and our thoughts and prayers are all with the two other team members whose condition is described as 'critical'. "
Tony Howe, Alexandria, NSW, Australia: "What can one say about the tragic accident in Germany? Our sincere thoughts go out to the family and friends of all concerned and to the Australian cycling team."
Chris Star, Abbotsford, Melbourne: "To all the families & friends of Amy, Katie, Lorian, Kate, Alexis and Louise, please be strong, our thoughts are with you all. Tragic incidents such as this, transcend any "us vs them" tribalism prevalent in the cycling universe. We all love to ride. Simple as that."
John Boultbee, former AIS Director, Sydney, Australia: "Amy was hugely respected and loved in the rowing world as well as the cycling world. She was two times a World Junior Champion, including the tough single sculls event, and, of course, an Olympian. As in cycling, she was very much a team player in rowing, and has many many friends in the sport. We will all miss her as well, and send our condolences to Simon and her family."
Cameron Best, WIN Television, Ballarat, Australia: "I had the honour of meeting Amy Gillett earlier this year when I interviewed her for our local news. We ended up spending most of the morning at her home near Buninyong, drinking coffee and chatting with Amy and her husband, Simon, about all things cycling before heading out on the road for some tracking shots. She was that sort of person - very affable, very down to earth, just a very genuine person. She was also one of Australia's most naturally gifted, yet unheralded sportswomen.
"Today I had the incredibly hard job of reporting Amy's death and it's easy to see how much she will be missed by her adopted hometown of Ballarat. My deepest sympathies to Simon, family and friends and the cycling community."
Joy Geary and Tom Huberts, Australia: She was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a Ph.D candidate, a champion rower and then a champion cyclist. It is so wrong that the use of our beautiful cycling machines could rob the world of such talent.
Darren & Jacky, Edinburgh, Scotland: This is terribly sad and unjust news. Our sincere condolences go to the family and friends of Amy. Also, our prayers and good wishes go to Katie, Lorian, Kate, Alexis and Louise.
Imogen Hines, NSW, Australia: Amy was a kind and caring person who had time to chat with Juniors and encourage them to keep going. My wishes for the other girls are to heal as well as possible and hopefully to be back racing. All the girls are great role models for me as a young cyclist taking the time to talk to me when they've been around.
Stephen Blair, President, ACT Cycling Federation: "The ACT Cycling Federation wishes to pass on its deepest sympathy to Amy Gillett's family and friends. Our thoughts are with the team - Katie Brown, Lorian Graham, Kate Nichols, Alexis Rhodes and Louise Yaxley - their families and friends.
"On behalf of all the members of the Federation I offer our support to coach Warren McDonald who was with the team at the time of the accident. Wazza is a much loved and respected figure in Canberra cycling.
"The ACT cycling community has a strong bond with the national women's cycling team. We enjoy their company at local cycling races and in bunch rides when they are based at the AIS. Amy is much admired and respected in Canberra for her extraordinary talent and wonderful caring nature."
Dean Woods, former cyclist: "What a sad day for cycling, not only in Australia but around the world.
"My deepest sympathy to Simon, all the girls involved in this tragedy, family and friends, coaches and personnel that will have to endure this unfortunate circumstance for many years to come.
"Australian Womans Cycling has in recent years displayed the dedication, team work and professionalism critical to be successful in any field of endeavor that has been lacking for too long and the results speak for themselves.
"Girls, I wish you all a speedy recovery and hope one day soon you will be able to wear the green and gold again."
Ann & Dean Beckett, South Australia: "What an absolute tragedy, such a talented athlete and well liked person, we would like to add our condolences to the family of Amy. We wish the injured girls all the best for a speedy recovery, be strong girls and fight like the dickens this is a race we want you all to win."
Anna Meares, Australian Track Team Member, Queensland: "I would like to express my deepest sorrow and condolences for Amy Gillett's Family and friends and all those that knew her. A person as beautiful, bright and bubbly as Amy was, will be so desperately missed.
"I also would like to wish the best and the most speedy recovery to Alexis, Lorian, Katie, Louise and Kate. My thoughts are with you all and your families and may you all find some peace after this very sad tragedy."
Scott Baker, Adelaide, Australia: "Over the past ten years I have enjoyed the pleasure of Amy's friendship through university, sport and socially. Amy possessed an amazing mixture of drive, humility and good humour that endeared her to friends, colleagues and fellow athletes alike. We will miss you, Amy."
Alison Wright, Former AIS and Australian Team Member & Denis Mungoven, Former AIS Team Mechanic: "Our deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who knew Amy and everyone who was involved in this terrible accident. Amy was such a vibrant person, she unashamedly loved the finer things in life but still managed to have a very genuine and down to earth attitude. We will remember her devilish laugh and her brutal honesty.
"To all the other girls and the support staff, we're so sorry for what you've had to go through and we'll certainly be thinking of you throughout your recovery."
Marion Clignet, France: "I first met Amy at a world cup in Sydney and was awed when someone told me she had been an olympic rower and only on a bike for a few years. She was a great person to come across on the track or road because no matter what she always took the time to stop, chat, say hi, smile that gorgeous smile. My sincerest thoughts are with her family, team mates, and the entire community."
John Trevorrow and family: "My condolences to the family and friends of Amy Gillett. My best wishes for a speedy recovery to Alexis Rhodes, Louise Yaxley, Katie Brown, Lorian Graham and Katie Nichols. Special thoughts to Graeme Brown and Mark Renshaw, Wazza (Warren McDonald) and Gary Sutton and all who feel the pain."
Catherine Marsal, Team Director, SATS-GRACE Cycling: "I just want to express on my behalf part and on behalf of Team SATS, my deepest condolences to Amy's family, and to the Australian Cycling Federation. Amy and the AIS Team have been such an inspiration for everybody, for all women's cycling. An example of happiness, determination and success and will always still be there in our minds and hearts."
"This is a terrible moment and I want to send you all my sympathy and courage. Sending all our deepest thoughts for you guys...the cycling world is supporting you."
Tony Horneman, Vice-President Randwick Botany Cycling Club, NSW. "The executive committee and members of the Randwick Botany Cycling Club are shocked and saddened by the tragic events in Germany. We extend our condolences to Amy Gillett's family and friends and hope Katie Brown, Lorian Graham, Kate Nichols (a regular at Heffron Park opens), Alexis Rhodes and Louise Yaxley make a quick recovery."
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