Olympic Cyclist Dies From Apparent Suicide After Family Says She'd Been Struggling With Injury, Concussion

Kelly Catlin's family said the champion cyclist began to struggle after breaking her arm late last year and suffering from a concussion, even trying to take her own life in an earlier attempt.

By Jill Sederstrom
Kelly Catlin

Olympic cyclist Kelly Catlin died Friday at the age in 23 in an apparent suicide.

The cyclist’s father, Mark Catlin, confirmed his daughter’s death had been a suicide at her California home in a statement to VeloNews.

“There isn’t a minute that goes by that we don’t think of her and think of the wonderful life she could have lived,” he said. “There isn’t a second in which we wouldn’t freely give our lives in exchange for hers. The hurt is unbelievable.”

Kelly Catlin had earned a silver medal with the women’s pursuit team in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic games and was an accomplished track cyclist and road cyclist.

The Stanford University student had earned three consecutive world championship titles with the U.S. women’s pursuit team from 2016 to 2018 during her career and was also working toward a graduate degree in computational mathematics at the time of her death.

Kelly Catlin was one of three triplets and was described by her family as kind, funny and talented.

“Everything she did, she was the best at when we were little kids,” her sister Christine Catlin told The Mercury News. “Sports, violin, and she casually picked up cycling. We were the Catlins, so we were this force.”

The family said Catlin began to struggle after breaking her arm late last year and suffering from a concussion.

“She couldn’t train as well as she used to,” Christine Catlin said. “She had really bad headaches and was sensitive to light.”

The family also described a previous suicide attempt in January, where she had written her family a note saying that her thoughts were racing all the time and that they were often dark.

After receiving the email, Christine Catlin said the family was able to contact police who were able to save the cyclist on that occasion.  

The family had been focusing on her recovery in the weeks after the attempt.

“Just a week or two ago, we were making plans and I was optimistic about her future,” her brother Colin Catlin told the paper. “She did have plans for the future, it turned out. Her plans.”

Kelly Catlin herself described the struggle she often faced juggling the cycling and academic world in  a recent journal written for VeloNews.

“After all, I somehow make everything work, right? Sure. Yeah, that’s somewhat accurate. But the truth is that most of the time, I don’t make everything work,” she wrote. “It’s like juggling with knives, but I really am dropping a lot of them. It’s just that most of them hit the floor and not me.

USA Cycling President and CEO Rob DeMartini called her death a “devastating loss,” in a statement released by the organization.

“Kelly was more than an athlete to us, and she will always be part of the USA Cycling family,” he wrote. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Catlin family. This is an incredibly difficult time and we want to respect their privacy.”

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