Our deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Carla Swart who was killed during a training ride on Wednesday. Known as the ginger ninja by her teammates, Swart will be missed by all.
According to reports, the 23-year-old Swart was hit by a truck while riding in the central Free State province of her native South Africa.
Swart moved with her family to the United States as a teenager and earned both cycling and running scholarships to North Carolina’s Lees-McRae College. From there, she earned a total of 19 national titles to become the most decorated rider in U.S. collegiate cycling history. She was also the first athlete to win national titles across all four disciplines of collegiate cycling in one year (2008).
Swart also raced with Lip Smackers and Team Vera Bradley Foundation on the road. Last year saw the talented, young rider win the “Best Young Rider” award at the Tour de L’Aude stage race in France and finished 10th at the World Road Championships in Australia. She planned to continue her career in the pro ranks in 2011, having just signed a full-time pro contract with HTC-Highroad.
Watch Carla talk about her second place finish at the 2010 Tour of the Gila Stage 4:
“At a time like this, words about what happened, why, and how are usually asked and bring little comfort. However, when I think of the impact that Carla Swart had on this earth, I know that we will all remember her for the life that she lived. In the time I have been at Lees-McRae College, I witnessed Carla do things that seemed impossible,” said Luke Winger, Lees-McRae cycling head coach on the school’s website. “Her accomplishments are what most people see. She was certainly the most decorated rider in the history of collegiate cycling and I had the privilege to see her win on multiple occasions. The thing though that stood out to me more than anything else was that this young woman, who was arguably one of the most intense competitors on the planet, managed to achieve outstanding grades in college and create strong friendships with her team and classmates.”
The Carla Swart Memorial Scholarship will be awarded annually to a female cyclist who demonstrates a love for the sport and exhibits great promise as a cyclist. Checks should be made out to Lees-McRae College (note Carla Swart Scholarship in the memo line) and mailed to the Office of Advancement, P.O. Box 128, Banner Elk, NC 28604. With questions about the scholarship, please contact Caroline Hart, vice president for advancement, at (828) 898-8777.
“We were terribly sorry to learn today of Carla Swart’s tragic passing and we extend our most sincere condolences to Carla’s family, friends and teammates,” said Steve Johnson, USA Cycling CEO in a statement. “Words fail me at times like this, but I do know the world has lost a wonderful spirit and that she will be sorely missed. It is tragic and extremely sad when anyone’s life is cut short but particularly so when it is someone we know and with whom we shared her and her teammates’ success and joy at Collegiate Nationals.”
“Carla will be missed dearly by the collegiate cycling community,” said USA Cycling Collegiate Program Manager, Jeffrey Hansen. “Her talent and friendship will not be forgotten. She had an incredible impact on our sport.”
HTC-Highroad posted the following message on their team site: “Carla, in such a short time you became part of our family and touched us all with your vibrant personality and your constant smile. You infected us with your zest for life and we will forever have you in our hearts.”
CyclingSA director of road cycling Hendrik Lemmer had the following to say: “Today we lost a teammate, friend and fellow rider. It was Carla’s dream to represent South Africa at the world championships and she did us proud on and off the bike while living her dream. “
There are no words.