Grief. How do you explain it to a two-year-old? How do you tell him that it is ok for daddy to cry? How do you show him where to kiss it better?
South African sport was robbed of one of its brightest stars on the third of January 2013. Burry Stander was more than just a mountain biker doing great things within his chosen sport. The tributes that continue to pour in, a day after this tragedy, are from across the sporting and non-sporting spectrum, locally and internationally. There are tribute rides self-starting across South Africa, and even as far afield as California, where MTB Hall-of-Famer Brian Lopes is organizing a classic Laguna ride in his honour.
What could have been? Where could Burry have taken his talent, his dedication and his smile? Have we been robbed of a home World Championships win (the 2013 edition will be in Pietermaritzburg…)? We will never know, but at 25 years old (I can’t type that without welling up again) all we do know is that Burry’s World U23 championship win, his World Cup wins, his Olympic contention, were all just an opening act. What was in Act II – World Champion? Olympic Champion? And Act III… maybe a cameo Cadel-Evans-esque Tour de France career? We will never know; thanks to somebody’s momentary lack of concentration/reason/self control/something, it is the epilogue. Details of the accident are still sketchy, and, to be honest, don’t matter. We can’t go back and change anything, so let’s not dwell on that, let’s rather get on our bikes and pay tribute to an inspirational role-model.
Cherise, god I don’t even know where to start. I remember vividly walking on the beach with you in Italy in 2008, when Burry was back in SA and not responding to your half-hourly SMSs. Your deep love for him, was clear to all of us even then, when you were both silly teenagers. You are so blessed to have loved, and be loved, and to have had that ripped away so soon is a travesty. You fought such hard battles together last year, and you did so with the most amazing levels of courage, strength and belief. You are going to need all of those in truckloads to get through this, but you will. I can think of nobody stronger. And you have the collective grief and support of the entire cycling community to power your healing and grieving.
And I have even managed to teach my little boy, sort of, what heartache is. He kissed my chest, where he now knows the heart is, told me it was all better, and then wrestled me to the ground, with the best giggle in the world, and a smile from here to Port Shepstone.
RIP Burry Stander.