Fully vaccinated Olympic bobsledder Duncan Pugh has died ‘suddenly’ after his brain exploded, his family has announced.
Pugh, 48, who represented the country at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, suffered a ‘catastrophic brain bleed’ in Perth on January 24.
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‘We are heartbroken and simply lost for words,’ his wife McKenzie wrote in an online post.
‘You were the rock of our family and wore your heart on your sleeve. You were so very proud of our two boys, the best dad anyone could have hoped for. You made me feel the centre of your world.’
‘Your passion and determination will forever live on in our boys.’
Dailymail.co.uk reports: Pugh, a former runner and surf lifesaver, debuted on the international bobsled circuit at the European Cup in 2007 after being introduced to the sport by a friend.
Two years later, he won bronze alongside Chris Spring at the 2009 America’s Cup in Calgary, Canada, in the two-man competition.
He made his first Olympic appearance the following year at the Vancouver Winter Games, however, his medal dreams were dashed when he was knocked out of the competition in the first round due to a crash that left him with a concussion.
During the first run of the two-man event, he and pilot Jeremy Rolleston’s sled tipped over, leaving them sliding down the course upside-down.
As they did not finish the race, they were eliminated from more runs, and were forced to withdraw from the four-man sled competition due to their injuries.
He did not compete in any further Olympic Games after the accident.
Discussing the crash in 2010, Pugh said the out-of-control tumble down the sliding track was ‘almost impossible to describe’.
‘It’s not a pleasant sensation, for a split second everything goes quiet and everything goes soft as you roll over,’ he told the ABC at the time.
‘And then you hit the ice and it’s just incredibly noisy, you’re getting rolled onto your head, onto your back.’
Pugh was also a teacher and spent the past 17 years working at Newman College, a Catholic school in Perth’s inner north-west.
He was also a volunteer coach for the Wests Scarborough Rugby Union Club, while his wife manager the team and occasionally worked in the canteen.
Family friend Levi Bristow has set up a GoFundMe to raise funds for Pugh’s wife and sons Charlie, 7, and George, 6, as they grapple with mounting medical bills and upcoming funeral expenses.
Mr Bristow said Pugh ‘will always be remembered as a legend’ who will be missed ‘everyday’.
‘[He was] a fantastic father to his boys, a beloved husband, son, brother and uncle to his family,’ Mr Bristow wrote.
‘An ex-Olympian with a continued passion for sport, which was obvious in his role as rugby and… fitness coach. He was adored and highly respected as a teacher and loved by all his friends.
‘Anyone that had a one-on-one conversation with Dunc will know exactly how easy it was to feel comfortable in his presence and grateful for his friendship.’
Tributes flowed for the beloved father-of-two, with Newman College remembering Pugh as a passionate ‘outdoor education specialist’ and much-loved member of their health and physical education department.
‘His commitment to students and colleagues was unwavering,’ the school said in a statement.
‘Duncan will be affectionately remembered as a significant member of the Newman community and will remain in our hearts for years to come.’
Bobsleigh and Skeleton Australia, the national governing body for the sport, said Pugh was ‘gone far too young’.
‘Our small bobsleigh family has taken a big hit this week with the passing of Pughie,’ it wrote online.
‘Duncan Pugh Vancouver 2010 Olympian, was and will always be remembered as a legend.
‘He will be sorely missed every day by us all.’
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