Durban - South African mountainbike ace Burry Stander died in a crash on Thursday, Cycling SA (CSA) has confirmed.
“He was returning from a training ride in Shelly Beach, on the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) south coast, and was hit by a vehicle,” said CSA spokesperson Mylene Loumeau.
Stander, 25, was fifth in the men's cross country race at the 2012 London Olympics.
Four years earlier, at the Beijing Games, he had proved his ability when he finished 15th in the cross country event at the age of 20.
The following season he rose to prominence on the global stage when he won the Under-23 title in the Mountainbike World Cup series.
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 defended their title in 2012.
He was married to elite road cyclist Cherise Taylor in May last year, just three months before he narrowly missed out on a medal at the London Olympics.
An emotional Loumeau said Stander, who was raised in KZN, would be missed by the SA 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.”
Gideon Sam, the president of the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), said he was “shattered” by the death of Stander, a three-time national champion in his specialist discipline.
“Burry was the epitome of an Olympic athlete Ä talented, ultra-competive but at the same time extremely humble and a true gentleman,” Sam said.
“Sascoc, the cycling fraternity, and the entire South African sporting community mourns his passing and sends our prayers to his wife and family.”
Sam said a concerted effort needed to be made to protect athletes using South Africa's roads.
“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.” - Sapa