Last Friday, Olympic track cyclist Kelly Catlin died by suicide at the age of 23. Catlin was a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, a three-time world champion in the team pursuit, and a graduate student at Stanford University studying computational and mathematical engineering.

Her father, Mark Catlin, M.D., has released a document detailing a timeline of events leading to his daughter’s death, along with an analysis of factors that he believes may have contributed to it — in hopes that lessons can be learned to prevent future tragedies.
By all accounts, Kelly Catlin displayed a nearly unmatched drive for excellence in all that she did — which also included playing classical violin, and fluency in Chinese. Catlin was beloved among the cycling community for being what her Olympic team coach Andy Sparks describes as “the exemplar of a team rider who always put others first.”
Catlin’s family believes that her depression was largely precipitated by an initially undiagnosed concussion, which may have occurred during a January 2019 training ride crash at a camp for her pro team, Rally UHC Cycling. (According to Velonews, the team said that Kelly was assessed immediately after this crash and there was no indication of serious injury.) After the crash, she began complaining of severe headaches, nausea, and sensitivity to light. Signs of depression soon followed.
Mark Catlin, who is a pathologist — a doctor who studies the causes and effects of diseases — near Minneapolis, tells BICYCLING that his daughter had never displayed any indication of depression or anxiety prior to this. He told the Washington Post, “She was not the Kelly that we knew… She spoke like a robot. We could get her to talk, but we wondered, ‘What has happened to our Kelly?’” She also described having racing, repetitive thoughts, and the sense that life was meaningless. In January, Kelly Catlin attempted suicide for the first time.
In his memo, Mark Catlin describes the cause of his daughter’s death as a combination of depression caused by the concussion, overtraining, stress from trying to juggle schoolwork with cycling, frustration from being unable to train like she wanted to because of her injuries, and — despite a personality that could also be funny, animated, and kind — an all-or-nothing approach to life that could not accept failure or letting others down. He also includes recommendations to the US Olympic program that he believes could help to prevent other athletes from slipping through the cracks.
“You kind of go through this ‘if only’ this, ‘if only’ that,” Mark Catlin says, describing a desire to “analyze” what happened. “I think part of the grieving process for me is trying to understand really what took place and how this came about because it really did come as a shock to us… And I guess that memo almost grew out of that process, but it was also a desire to maybe make some changes. There are a couple things about concussion testing and cautionary things about how important it is to have a baseline [test result], and if you have a head injury, to get checked out if you have any kind of symptoms.” Kelly, he says, was able to memorize passages and essentially outsmart reading tests that were administered to assess her potential head injury. The Catlin family has donated Kelly’s brain for concussion research.
Mark Catlin also stressed the importance of watching for signs of overtraining. “It can have severe mental issues, with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, all kinds of stuff,” he says.
His memo is not intended to assign blame or imply wrongdoing. “In my grief, I do get upset thinking it shouldn’t have happened, but I have no intention of letting it go beyond a passing feeling,” he says. “She isn’t coming back.”/em><mark catlin="" simply="" hopes="" that,="" as="" a="" result="" of="" kelly’s="" passing,="" some="" “institutional”="" changes="" can="" be="" made="" to="" prevent="" this="" from="" happening="" again.="" (www.bicycling.com)=""

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