Collegiate cycling lost its most prolific champion Wednesday when Carla Swart (HTC-HighRoad) was killed while training in her native South Africa. According to reports, Swart was struck by a truck while riding in the Free State Province and died soon after.
Swart, 23, won 19 national collegiate titles for Lees-McRae College in all four disciplines: road, mountain cyclocross and track. She was poised to join Bob Stapleton’s program and last month took part in the team’s first training camp in Morgan Hill, California.
The team released the following statement:
“Carla was new to our team in 2011 and after only a short amount of time she endeared herself to everybody and became part of our family. Her enthusiasm and spirit was engaging and she had the ability to make everybody smile around hers. She had a remarkable talent and looked forward to a very bright future. Our thoughts and hearts are with her family and we will honor her in the days and months ahead.”
Swart, who came eighth in a 112-kilometer road race at the Commonwealth Games last year, lost her cycling computer while riding and turned into the path of an oncoming truck in a bid to retrieve it, Cycling South Africa team manager Barry Austin told the Sapa news agency.
“The truck hit Swart full on, flinging her into the air,” said Austin, who was present at the time-trial session in the central South African province of
the Free State.
“I could see how the driver pushed as hard as he could on his brakes,” he said. “He even swerved to the right so as to avoid smashing into Swart, but it was to no avail.”
Fellow HTC recruit Amanda Miller first met Swart at the 2007 collegiate mountain bike national championships and remembered her friend, who showed up to that event with platform pedals and tennis shoes.
“She was just an amazing person, a great friend and a great teammate. I’m at a loss,” Miller told VeloNews. “She probably was at least satisfied with how things were going for her at the moment. She was happy.”
An outpouring of grief met the news on Twitter. Announcer Dave Towle was there for Swart’s top collegiate moments and said, “Carla Swart was just an unreal athlete and such a sweet person. She dominated in sport and life with class, heart and grace.”
BMC Racing’s Brent Bookwalter was Swart’s teammate at Lees-McRae.
“The news about Carla is a total shock,” Bookwalter said. “The sport has lost one of its most talented and exciting athletes. But even more devastating is that the world is now without such a friendly, genuine, and loving person. My thoughts and prayers are with Carla’s family and everyone who was fortunate enough to have her as even a small part of their lives. Carla will be greatly missed.”
Related: Making the Grade: Carla Swart (2008)