Over the last year, our own Contributing Writer Tia Shah, has been writing an amazing column about trailblazing girls throughout history. This new Incredible Girls column is in that vein, only this column is about contemporary girls under the age of 25 who are doing awe-inspiring and significant things in the world. Every Friday in 2019, we are going to post a column detailing the life of an Incredible Girl and why you should know about her. Read on for a glimpse into the life of Olympic cyclist Kelly Catlin.

Photo Credit: https://www.teamusa.org/usa-cycling/athletes/kelly-catlin

This week, I want to talk about an incredible girl in sports who died recently. Olympian Kelly Catlin, who competed and medaled at the 2016 Rio Games and had other world titles under her belt, took her own life last Friday. According to a letter sent to cycling magazine VeloNews by her father, Mark, the athlete and musician was found at her home in California.

In this column, I want to remember and pay tribute to Kelly’s incredible accomplishments. The youngest of a set of triplets, Kelly grew up with her brother, Colin, and sister, Christine in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2018 with a degree in mathematics and Chinese before going onto Stanford to study computational and mathematical engineering.

Kelly was an accomplished violinist and artist and she started cycling at the age of 17 after she sustained injuries from running. In a February guest article she wrote for Velo News, she talked about the complexities of juggling her athletic and academic career.

“Being a graduate student, track cyclist, and professional road cyclist can instead feel like I need to time-travel to get everything done. And things still slip through the cracks,” she wrote. “This is probably the point when you’ll expect me to say something cliché like, ‘Time management is everything.’ After all, I somehow make everything work, right? Sure. Yeah, that’s somewhat accurate. But the truth is that most of the time, I don’t make everything work. It’s like juggling with knives, but I really am dropping a lot of them. It’s just that most of them hit the floor and not me.”

She talked about the pressures of balancing her three competing careers and, in my opinion, she had some really insightful things to say about failure, planning “for the unplannable” and developing your greatest strengths — namely, the ability to recognize your own weakness and asking for help when you need it. She gave an example of studying for 12 hours during her recovery day, only to need a recovery day from her “recovery day.”

She closed the piece by saying: “So, remember: Just as with your muscles, your mind can only repair itself and get stronger with rest. Ask for a rest day, or, if you’re fortunate to be your own taskmaster (er, coach), give yourself a rest day. Unlike everything else in life, it cannot possibly do you harm.”

Kelly’s sister, Christine, told People magazine in an interview that her sister hadn’t been the same since she sustained a concussion during a cycling race in December, and had been struggling with vision problems and severe headaches ever since.

Kelly’s father, Mark, said in a statement to People that his daughter had such a bright future ahead and just couldn’t see through the “temporary setback.”

“It’s such a loss to the world and a loss to her that she’s gonna miss so many good things. She had so much to look forward to. Now it’s not gonna happen.”

As a triplet myself, I cannot imagine the grief and emotions that Kelly’s siblings are going through right now, and my heart goes out to Colin and Christine, as well as to her parents. I’m going to be keeping Kelly’s friends and family in my thoughts and prayers for the foreseeable future. If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For additional resources, please go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

-Sage Daugherty
Associate Editor
Girl Museum Inc.

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