Stephen Wooldridge, Australian Olympic cycling champion, dies aged 39

The track cyclist was one of Australias most decorated, having won Olympic gold and four world titles in the team pursuing event

The Australian Olympic and world champion track cyclist, Stephen Wooldridge, has died aged 39.

Born in Sydney, Wooldridge won gold in the 4,000 m squad pursuing at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and claimed four world titles in the same discipline. He was inducted into the NSW Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Cycling New South Wales said in a statement it was deeply saddened by the loss of an outstanding pursuiter.

Stephen was an inspirational figure in way cycling, particularly in his home state of NSW, the statement said.

Phill Bates, the president of the St George Cycling Club and a life member of Cycling Australia, mentored Wooldridge throughout his career and said he was somebody quite special.

He was such a likeable guy who did much for the athletic of cycling both on and off the pushbike, Bates told Guardian Australia.

Bates said Wooldridge had had to deal with some personal issues over the years but always had a smile and was happy-go-lucky.

He was such an infectious guy, Bates told. Hed walk into the room and illuminated it up … He actually belied the fact that he was such a great champ. He was just a genuine guy and was interested in talking to anyone.

After retiring from cycling, Wooldridge sought a career in the tertiary education sector, chiefly with the University of NSW, and held various roles with Cycling Australia and Oceania Cycling Confederation boards and committees.

He was also an ambassador for Ride for Life, contributed to building a cancer survivors centre at the Prince of Wales hospital and was chairman of the Cyclists Commission.

All these incredible things he did over a period of time constructed him something quite special, said Bates.

Hell be remembered most for the fact he was able to show everyone you could race a pushbike, achieve national honour, undertake university studies in a so difficult engineering degree, go on and win world, Olympic and Commonwealth titles, and be one of the all-time greats of the athletic.

Its just amazing what he has been able to achieve. Mixing all of that having created a family and everything else that goes with that life.

Hell be well remembered for his achievements but also for a genuine approach on and off his bike and for his personality.

Wooldridge is survived by his 10 -year-old son, seven-year-old daughter, his former wife and his current partner.

In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. Hotlines in other countries can be found here

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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