Thu, Aug 02, 2018 - Page 16 News List

After Ellie Soutter’s death, father decries demands on athletes

The Guardian

The father of the British snowboarder Ellie Soutter, who died suddenly on her 18th birthday, believes that the intense pressure of competing in elite-level sport might have contributed to her death.

Tony Soutter said that his daughter, who was tipped to represent Britain at the 2022 Winter Olympics, was unhappy about missing a flight shortly before her death on Wednesday last week that meant she was unable to train with the Team GB squad.

She grew up in Oxted, Surrey, but since 2010 had lived with her father in Les Gets in the French Alps, where she was spotted by Team GB officials and offered a trial for the junior team.

Ellie Soutter’s funeral is scheduled to take place tomorrow in Les Gets, comprising a church service followed by a private cremation.

Tony Soutter, 53, believes that his daughter’s history of mental health problems and the pressure she felt might have led to her death.

“She wanted to be the best,” he told BBC South East. “She didn’t want to let anybody down. Unfortunately, it all came about from missing a flight which then meant she didn’t go training with the GB squad.”

“She felt she’d let them down, felt she’d let me down and just tragically it just takes one silly little thing like that to tip someone over the edge, because there’s a lot of pressure on children,” he added.

The snowboarder secured Team GB’s only medal at the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in Turkey last year after winning bronze.

She had been selected for the British team for the Junior World Championships in New Zealand in August and was tipped to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Her family have set up a foundation in her name to help young winter sports competitors with financial support.

Tony Soutter added that he had lost his “best friend” and called for action to support young athletes with their mental well-being.

“Mental health awareness needs to be really looked at and made more public,” he said.

Last week, Tony Soutter wrote in a tribute on Facebook: “This cruel world took my soulmate and ‘Bessie’ from me on her 18th birthday. I was so proud of the beautiful young woman she had turned into. Ellie, I will miss you more than you could have ever imagined. Rest in peace you little champion!”

UK Sport said it was working with organizations to provide support for athletes.

“This is a desperately sad situation and our thoughts are with all of Ellie’s family and friends,” a UK Sport spokesman said. “We are working with all of our Olympic and Paralympic programs and the mental health charity Mind to make sure appropriate support is in place.”

Suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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