Tributes flow in for 'warrior princess' Kelly Catlin

Shock and sadness in cycling community after death of Olympic medalist

Tributes have flowed in for Kelly Catlin following the news of her death on Friday. The 23-year-old ended her life in her Stanford University residence.

A multi-talented athlete, artist and musician, Catlin began racing as a teenager at the urging of her twin brother Colin. She quickly rose through the ranks, winning the Minnesota state cyclo-cross championships and then landing on the podium in her first national road championships in 2013 in the Junior 15-18 category.

Catlin won the U23 national title in both the road race and time trial in 2014 and 2015, and the Pan American Games time trial in 2015, but it was on the track where she found the most success as part of USA Cycling's team pursuit squad.

Together with Sarah Hammer, Jen Valente, Ruth Winder, and Chloe Dygert, Catlin won the 2016 world championship title and the silver medal in the team pursuit in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. After Hammer's retirement, Kim Geist joined the squad, who continued on to win two more world titles.

Catlin's father Mark called Kelly his "warrior princess" and told the Washington Post that "part of her undoing was her personal code. She gave 110 percent to whatever she was doing."

Kelly had been suffering from a "perfect storm" combination of depression, overtraining and the after-effects of a concussion sustained in a crash last year, he said. She started to show signs of crisis in December.

"She was not the Kelly that we knew. She spoke like a robot. We could get her to talk, but we wondered, 'what has happened to our Kelly?'," he said.

"... Everything was open to her, but somehow her thinking was changed and she couldn't see beyond, I guess, her depression. After her concussion, she started embracing nihilism. Life was meaningless. There was no purpose. This was a person with depression. For her, she could no longer concentrate on her studies or train as hard. She couldn't fulfill what she felt were her obligations to herself, she couldn't live up to her own standards. She couldn't realize that what she needed to do was get away and rest, heal. We were all searching for the magic words, that life was worth living."

Her sister Christine Catlin said that Kelly wasn't able to train like she was used to and had attempted suicide two months ago. "She had really bad headaches and was sensitive to light. Then she tried to commit suicide in January the same way. She had written this lengthy email [to her family] and said her thoughts were racing all the time. She was suicidal, her thinking was really dark, and she had taken to nihilism. We called police the moment we got the email and they got there in time to save her that time."

If you or someone you know have suicidal thoughts or exhibit warning signs such as talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, having no purpose, feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain, immediately call 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) or visit https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help to find your local hotline. These services are staffed around the clock with experts certified to help.

 
 
 
 
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I’ve been staring at this photo for an hour now. I’m numb. I don’t have words for this feeling. I am heartbroken, and I am angry. I’m so sorry, Kelly. My heart is with her family, and our entire community. “Ask for a rest day, or, if you’re fortunate to be your own taskmaster (er, coach), give yourself a rest day. Unlike everything else in life, it cannot possibly do you harm.” Please know that there are people who love you, and care about you. No matter what you are going through in life, taking a step back does not mean failure, and reaching out does not make you weak. We all need someone, sometimes. And together we can make it through anything. ?? #neverforget #kellycatlin

A post shared by Missy Erickson (@missyerickson) on

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