The Australian Olympic and world champion track cyclist, Stephen Wooldridge, has died aged 39.
Born in Sydney, Wooldridge won gold in the 4,000m team pursuit 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 track 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 sport 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 said. “He’d walk into the room and light it up … He really belied the fact that he was such a great champion. He was just a genuine guy and was interested in talking to anyone.”
After retiring from cycling, Wooldridge pursued a career in the tertiary education sector, mainly 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 made him something quite special,” said Bates.
“He’ll be remembered most for the fact he was able to show everyone you could race a pushbike, achieve national honours, undertake university studies in a very difficult engineering degree, go on and win world, Olympic and Commonwealth titles, and be one of the all-time greats of the sport.
“It’s just amazing what he has been able to achieve. Mixing all of that having raised a family and everything else that goes with that life.
“He’ll 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.
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