PALO ALTO, CALIF. – Track cyclist Kelly Catlin, a Minnesotan who was an Olympic silver medalist and repeat world champion, was mourned Sunday after she was found dead at her home. She was 23.
Catlin’s father, Mark Catlin, and other family members said she died by suicide Friday on the Stanford campus, where she was a graduate student.
“There isn’t a minute that goes by that we don’t think of her and think of the wonderful life she could have lived,” Mark Catlin said. “There isn’t a second in which we wouldn’t freely give our lives in exchange for hers. The hurt is unbelievable.”
Catlin was raised in Arden Hills and went to Mounds View High School.
Charlie Townsend, coach of Twin Cities-based NorthStar Development Cycling, said Catlin’s death was “confusing and overwhelming’’ to those who knew her. He was among the first to recognize her talent, when Catlin joined the team in 2013 as a “diamond in the rough.’’
Following her brother Colin and sister Christine into the sport, Catlin rose quickly to the national championship level, Townsend said. Her natural talent was augmented by discipline, intelligence and drive.
“She did so many things, and she would work on a thing until she mastered it,’’ he said. “She was very motivated, and she held herself to very high standards. We could see that from early on.’’
Catlin raced locally in the Nature Valley Grand Prix and counted many local cyclists among her friends. She was a role model for younger athletes with the NorthStar Development team, Townsend said, and never hesitated to give advice and assistance. Her success also showed them what is possible.
“We were all very proud of Kelly,’’ Townsend said. “Many people were beaten by her very early on, when she was a brand-new rider who didn’t have a lot of the skills yet. And all those people had lots of respect for her when she moved on to the next level.’’
Townsend said Catlin sustained a concussion in training this winter and was struggling to deal with the physical and mental effects.
“Her last couple of months here must have been very tough,’’ he said. “It breaks our hearts to think about it, because we were close to Kelly. We’re stunned. We’re heartbroken.’’
Family members knew she was troubled after the concussion.
“She couldn’t train as well as she used to,” Christine Catlin said. “She had really bad headaches and was sensitive to light. Then she tried to commit suicide in January. … She had written this lengthy e-mail [to her family] and said her thoughts were racing all the time. She was suicidal, her thinking was really dark and she had taken to nihilism. We called police the moment we got the e-mail, and they got there in time to save her that time.”
After that incident, Catlin’s family focused on her recovery, and she convinced them she was getting better, according to her siblings.
“Just a week or two ago, we were making plans, and I was optimistic about her future,” Colin Catlin said. “She did have plans for the future, it turned out. Her plans.”
Besides the Olympic silver medal, Catlin helped the U.S. team win three consecutive world titles in pursuit starting in 2016. She won bronze in the individual pursuit at the track cycling world championships in 2017 and 2018.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
The Crisis Text Line is 741-741.
Staff writer Rachel Blount contributed to this report.