Sport

Veteran cycling coach loses battle with MND

World champion Anna Meares, left, of Australia, hugs her coach Gary West after winning the women's team sprint final during the Track Cycling World Championships in Apeldoorn
World champion Anna Meares, left, of Australia, hugs her coach Gary West after winning the women's team sprint final during the Track Cycling World Championships in Apeldoorn PETER DEJONG

REVERED Australian track cycling coach Gary West has died after losing his battle with motor neurone disease (MND).

The long-time coach of Olympic great Anna Meares, West passed away in Adelaide at the age of 57.

This time last year he was still coaching the national sprint team at the Rio Olympics but stepped down from the role after returning home to deal with his diagnosis on September 5.

West put up a brave fight and rallied hard to raise awareness of the disease which robbed him of his ability to speak before he was hospitalised this week.

His passing continues a devastating week for Australian cycling which is also mourning the death of former team pursuit world champion Stephen Wooldridge who died at the age of 37.

West was a world-class cyclist who competed at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and won gold at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.

 

Australian cyclist Anna Meares (right) and her coach Gary West at the International Track Series (ITS) in Melbourne in 2016.
Australian cyclist Anna Meares (right) and her coach Gary West at the International Track Series (ITS) in Melbourne in 2016. TRACEY NEARMY

But his legacy will be as a coach after he took charge of Australia's track sprint team first in 1994 and again in 2008, as well as stints in the US and Japan.

Under West, Australia's men's team sprint won the world championship in 2012 and Stephanie Morton and Matthew Glaetzer won Commonwealth Games gold in 2014.

But it was his partnership with Meares that put him in the international spotlight after they teamed up following the 2008 Beijing Olympics and conquered all before them.

Meares won nine of her 11 world championships as well as Olympics gold, silver and bronze medals under West, making her the greatest female track cyclist of all time.

Meares also credits West with saving her career after he convinced her not to quit the sport when her personal life was in turmoil in the lead-up to the Rio Olympics.

After being diagnosed with MND, West turned to an online blog where he wrote about living with the disease and never lost hope that a cure might one day be found.

In June he posted about Neale Daniher and 'The Big Freeze' at the MCG.

"The difficult part is difficult to explain, but it revolves around hope that could come by the way of the outcome," West wrote in June.

"When I watched the celebrity sliders plunge into the icy water and the thousands of blue Fight MND beanies in the MCG crowd, it brought me to tears again.

"It's humbling and very personal to see and witness Australia getting behind the cause, a cause that could save my life and the lives of so many others."

Topics:  anna meares gary west mnd

News Corp Australia

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