January 4 - South Africa has gone into mourning following the death of Olympic mountain biker Burry Stander, who was killed in a road accident.
The 25-year-old (pictured top), who finished fifth in the mountain bike at the London 2012 Olympics – missing a bronze medal by only five seconds, died yesterday when he was hit by a taxi in Shelly Beach, a town in the KwaZulu-Natal province on South Africa's East Coast.
He was out on a training ride with his wife, Cherise, who is also a professional cyclist.
As well as last summer's Olympics, Stander competed at Beijing 2008 at the age of 20, as well as being a former under-19 and under-23 world champion and finished third in the 2010 World Championships.
In 2011, Stander became the first South African to win the Cape Epic stage race in the Western Cape, with Swiss partner Christoph Sauser, and the pair successfully defended their title in 2012.
Tributes to the cyclist were led by his compatriot Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who tweeted: "Absolutely devastated by the tragic news of Burry Stander's passing. A South African icon and sporting great. RIP my friend."
Gideon Sam, President of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), also paid his respects in statement, saying: "Burry was the epitome of an Olympic athlete; talented, ultra-competitive but at the same time extremely humble and a true gentleman."
Meanwhile, Cycling South Africa (CSA) spokesperson Mylene Loumeau said Stander would be missed by the cycling community.
"I had seen him come through the ranks since 2006," she said.
"He was a fantastic role model, and at the same time he was humble at it."
Stander's death is another blow to the nation's cycling after the death of top female road racer Carla Swart in January 2011, who died from injuries sustained after colliding with a car in the Free State Province.
Yesterday's tragic incident is the latest in a line of accidents involving some of cycling biggest names across the globe, and comes less than a month after the death of another professional mountain biker – Iñaki Lejarreta, who was killed by a car while training in Spain.
Late last year, Britain's Tour de France and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins and his fellow Team GB rider Mark Cavendish were both hurt in collisions with vehicles.
In the same week that Wiggins was hit, British Cycling head coach Shane Sutton was also injured in a separate road accident in Manchester.
The loss of Stander prompted South Africa's Sam to call for more to be done to protect athletes.
"I've said this time and again but it is really time to work even harder at protecting both our runners and cyclists who use the roads daily to do their training," he insisted.
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