This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Family, friends and the cycling community mourned the loss of Olympian Burry Stander after he was killed while training last Thursday.
“No parent should ever have to see his child lying on a tarred road after an accident, knowing that there is absolutely nothing he can do to save his life,” said Charles Stander, father of Burry. “It is definitely the worst moment of my life. Words cannot even begin to describe how one feels when it happens. It was terrible.”
Burry Stander was out on a training ride in Shelly Beach, on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast on January 3, when he was hit by a taxi. Apparently the driver did not see Stander when he made a turn. Stander died on the scene.
Colonel Jay Naicker, a spokesperson for the police, confirmed that a docket for culpable homicide was opened.
According to Charles Stander, he and his family will remember his son not just for his successes as a mountain biker. “For us Burry will always be more than just a mountain bike champion. In fact, he was a champion on and off his bike. For him his family always came first. He never hesitated to help when, and where ever, he could.”
When asked what he considered to be the highlights of his son’s cycling career, Charles Stander said that it was almost impossible to make a selection. “Where does one start? There were some special moments. Burry really made us all very proud.”
Charles Stander asked the cyclists who are planning to participate in Memorial Rides in memory of his son, not to let their emotions get the best of them. “This is the last thing that Burry would have wanted.”
The funeral arrangements will only be finalized by next week.
Zoon Cronje, ZCMC, said that a Burry Stander Foundation will be established to fund and drive the process to change legislation concerning cycling safety as well as assist various projects to promote safe cycling.
“Our initial plan with the Burry Stander Foundation is to raise funds to help to pay for any legal costs that may be incurred to drive the process. Later on we hope to not only assist various safe cycling initiatives but also to assist talented young riders to fulfil their dreams.” Stander was already associated with projects like Songo.info with his Cape Epic training partner and Specialized teammate Christoph Sauser.
The official memorial rides will be used to not only drive awareness but also hand over petitions to the MEC. Cronje said, “We are fortunate to have the organisers of the Pick n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour helping us with the Cape Town leg, the organizers of the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge assisting with the Gauteng leg and also support from Andrew Maclean via CycleLab and Fritz Pienaar via Advendurance. There will also be a ride on the South Coast where Burry is from.”
All the details will be communicated via Burry’s official Facebook page: www.facebook.com/africanmtbkid.
Tributes from around the world
Stander’s death sent shock waves throughout the international sporting community and tributes from all over the world have been pouring in on the various sports and news websites and on the social media.
Leader of the DA, Helen Zille, posted her condolences on Twitter, writing: Such a tragedy. The cycling legend Burry Stander died today after being hit by a vehicle.
Christoph Sauser, Stander’s teammate and mentor, said that the feeling of emptiness and shock he experienced on hearing of Burry’s death was worse than when his dad died when he was still a child. “I will never ever forget you,” he said.
Germany’s Karl Platt, a four-time winner of the Cape Epic, tweeted: “I am speechless, shaking and completely out of my mind! What a sad day. We lost a part of our ‘family’. Our prayers are with your family.”
Greg Minnaar, downhill world champion and fellow South African, described Stander as a fighter, a champion, a gentleman and a legend forever.
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, a top South African cyclist, said that she was sickened by the news of the passing away of Burry Stander. “My deepest condolences to Cherise Stander and family! May God give you strength.”
Robert Hunter, former stage winner in the Tour de France, said his thoughts go out to Burry’s wife and family. “Huge loss for South African and world cycling.”
According to John Smit, a former Springbok captain, he is still struggling to deal with the news. “Burry was an absolute legend and hero of mine on the bike. Rest in peace, ‘Boet’.”
Victor Matfield, also a former Springbok captain, said it was time to stand up for cyclists’ rights on South African roads. “Such sad stuff to hear that South African hero, Burry Stander, one of the world’s best mountain bikers, was killed by a taxi on our roads.”
Max Knox, South African marathon champion, said he will miss his rivalry with Burry. “There are no words to describe my feelings when hearing of his death. My heart is very sore. You will be missed dearly, my friend.”
According to Daryl Impey winner of two stages on the ProTour, Burry will always be his hero. “You are a legend in the Czech Republic Forever,” wrote Radek Nedved, a Facebook supporter.
“Terrible news…. Burry Stander passing away – I cannot believe it,” tweeted Arron Brown.
“Saddest news to start 2013. Rest in peace, my fellow 2012 Olympic teammate. My prayers are with his family and Cherise,” said Bridgitte Hartley (bronze medallist canoeist at the 2012 Olympic Games in London).
Gideon Sam, president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), said more needed 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.”
Fierce rival of Stander’s on the South African mountain biking scene, Kevin Evans, wrote on Twitter: “Take nothing for granted. Ever. Condolences to the Stander family.”
Tour de France star Chris Froome said, “Very sad start to the new year and a massive loss to African cycling with the passing of Burry Stander”