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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Second Edition Cycling News for July 21, 2005

Edited by John Stevenson

AIS women update - condition still critical, but AIS 'optimistic' about recovery

The head of the Australian Insititute of Sport (AIS), Professor Peter Fricker, said they have "reason to be optimistic" about the recovery of the five cyclists who are hospitalised in Germany after the tragic accident on Monday, Jul 18, 2005, that caused the death of cyclist Amy Gillett.

Amy Gillett, 1976-2005
Photo ©: AIS
Click for larger image

However, cyclists Alexis Rhodes and Louise Yaxley are still in intensive care, unconscious since the incident on Monday and assisted by automatic ventilators. Meanwhile, Katie Brown, Kate Nichols and Lorian Graham remain in hospital, and are expected to stay for some time, recovering from the injuries sustained in the accident. The riders have been informed of the fate of their team-mate, and have been joined by close family who've flown to Germany.

All the riders are now in the same hospital after Lorian Graham was transferred overnight. The three conscious riders are now sharing the same room.

At a press conference in Germany, Professor Fricker, released details on the cyclists' conditions after the parents agreed to the release of factual information. "They want everyone to know they are optimistic about their daughters' recovery and extremely satisfied with the treatment they are receiving," he said.

"The Uni Klinik in Jena is a new facility and there is no rush to move them out of the facility because they are receiving the best possible care. Louise and Alexis are the most critically injured but both are very fit and strong and we have reason to be optimistic about their recovery," Prof Fricker added.

Cycling Australia's national performance director, Shayne Bannan, said the arrival of families and friends in Jena has lifted everyone's spirits.

"Last night Australian cyclists, Sara Carrigan, Olivia Gollan, Oenone Wood and Kate and Natalie Bates along with family and friends crowded into Kate, Katie and Lorian's hospital room for a visit," he said.

Katie Brown at the Trust House Women's Tour 2005
Photo ©: Joel Roberts
Click for larger image
Lorian Graham wins the Australian road championships in January 2005
Photo ©: CN
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Kate Nichols in the women's races at the 2005 Tour Down Under
Photo ©: Rachel Burke
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Alexis Rhodes at the Track World Cup in Los Angeles, 2004
Photo ©: Mike Gladu
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Louise Yaxley waits for the start of the TT stage at the Tour de l'Aude
Photo ©: Philippe Volle
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"It was a really positive experience for everyone and it was obvious to everyone the amazing women in the cycling program love each other very much and will do whatever they need to do to support each other through this tragedy," he said.

Carrigan, Gollan, Wood and the Bates sisters came to the hospital following the neutralised second stage of the Thüringen-Rundfahrt (see report). The first stage was cancelled due to the tragic accident and the organisers of the race instead held a memorial service for Amy Gillett.

The 60-competitor field is traumatised by the accident and chose not to race the second stage, but rode from Zeulenroda to Greiz under neutral conditions with the seven remaining Australians in the race crossing the line a little way ahead of the rest of the field as a mark of respect for Amy and support for the injured riders.

The latest medical status update from Cycling Australia is as follows (Cyclingnews advises this report does contain further detail that may further upset readers):

Katie Brown, 21 - Remains in a satisfactory condition after surgery on both her left knee and right leg. Katie also has fractures of three bones in her left wrist and her left ring finger is broken. Doctors expect her to be released from hospital in two or three weeks. Her parents Rodney and Lorraine Brown, brother Graeme Brown and his wife Hayley along with Katie's boyfriend Mark Renshaw are also in Jena.

Lorian Graham, 27 - Remains in a satisfactory condition after surgery. Graham has a fracture of her right collar bone and the patella in her left knee. Doctors have fixed tension wire to her knee to support it. Her left arm has some abrasions but are not aware of any fractures of her left arm or collar bone. Her mother, Lorian Graham (Snr) and sister Desley will arrive in Germany today.

Kate Nichols, 20 - Remains in a satisfactory condition after surgery to repair tendon damage in her right hand and fingers. Doctors have splinted her hand and fingers to minimise scar tissue and to assist in the return of full mobility in her hand. Nichols has a small piece of glass in her eye which doctors will remove if necessary. Multiple abrasions and doctors removed a lot of glass from her wounds but she is already undergoing physiotherapy and expected to be released from hospital in a week or so. Parents Kevin and Sylvia are in Jena.

Alexis Rhodes, 20 - Remains in a critical but stable condition in intensive care. Rhodes has suffered serious chest trauma and spinal injuries and will require further surgery. She has fractures of parts of her thoracic spine and seven broken bones in her back. There is no evidence at this stage that her spinal cord has been damaged. There are bone fragments near her spinal cord and doctors will operate to remove those in due course. Doctors are keeping Alexis unconscious, on an automatic ventilator and will not wake her until they believe it is medically safe to do so. She also has extensive tissue damage. Parents Jenni and Greg Rhodes are in Jena. She is expected to remain in hospital for 4 - 6 weeks.

Louise Yaxley, 23 - Remains in a critical but stable condition in intensive care. Louise underwent further surgery overnight to stabilise her condition. She has a small blood clot in her brain which is not causing any major problem at this stage and is being monitored by doctors. She has also suffered chest trauma and a puncture wound to her abdomen. She has a broken arm and severe damage to both arms and legs (grazing and abrasions which have stripped the skin from her limbs) that will require plastic surgery. Louise has not regained consciousness since the accident and is also on an automatic ventilator. Doctors will not wake her until it is medically safe to do so. Parents Annette and Brian Yaxley arrived early this morning and have visited the hospital and spoken with her doctors. Partner Mark Padget is also in Jena. She is expected to remain in hospital for 4 - 6 weeks.

'Brownie' tries his best to keep spirits up

Graeme Brown, dual cycling gold medallist at the Athens Olympic Games and based in Italy with Ceramica Panaria - Navigare, has arrived in Germany to be with his sister, Katie, one of the cyclists injured in Monday's tragedy.

His sister's "spirits are reasonably good considering the circumstances. I've been acting pretty silly to make her laugh and keep her happy," he said.

"She's been having trouble sleeping because the accident keeps replaying in her mind and she wakes up crying from the nightmares. But the psychologist says that's normal in the first 24 to 48 hours following a trauma like this."

"A big crew of Australian riders came to visit her before they raced and my mum and dad and Kate Nichols' folks arrived at about the same time, so we were all in the same room and it was almost a bit too loud."

Brown said his sister now knows of Amy's death, but they are letting her deal with it in her own way and with the aid of the psychologist, who spent the night in the hospital room she shares with Kate Nichols, so she could be a friendly face when Katie awoke from a nightmare.

"She talks about it when she wants to but when she sees someone new it makes her cry because she wants to explain it again and remember it," he said. "But that's probably a good thing because she's talking her way through it and getting it off her chest.

"We're all here for each other and that's what's important," he said. "I was pretty upset when I first saw her and I still get very emotional but I go outside when that happens so I don't get upset in front of her."

Thüringen-Rundfahrt under way with neutral stage

Oenone Wood ('C)
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

After the tragic accident before the Thüringen-Rundfahrt in Germany that killed Australian cyclist Amy Gillett and injured five of her teammates, the organisers of the race held a memorial service in place of the first stage on Tuesday and neutralised what was to be the second stage on Wednesday.

The memorial service was held at Zeulenroda's Market Place. The service was attended by local government and German Cycling Federation representatives, representatives of the International Cycling Union and all the riders and team staff of the Tour. Australia's Ambassador to Germany, Pamela Fayle, read a tribute to Amy on behalf of Cycling Australia's board, staff and members, and several Australian cyclists including Olympic gold medallist, Sara Carrigan, world ranked number one, Oenone Wood, and Amy's close friend Natalie Bates paid tribute to their friend and teammate. Australians Rochelle Gilmore, Emma Rickards, Olivia Gollan and Kate Bates also attended. At the conclusion of the service the cyclists on their bicycles followed by a convoy of mourners travelled to where the accident happened and amidst prayers and tears, floral tributes were laid at the site next to a simple wooden cross bearing Amy's name.

Cyclists stand in silence
Photo ©: Reuters
Click for larger image

On Wednesday, it was decided that stage 2 between Zeulenroda and Greiz would be ridden under neutral conditions by the field, with the seven remaining Australian riders in the race crossing the line first, a little way ahead of the peloton. It was a symbolic gesture that was also performed by the Motorola team in the Tour de France 10 years ago, after Fabio Casartelli died on a descent during Stage 15 on July 18, 1995. The next day, the stage between Tarbes and Pau was neutralised and the six remaining members of the Motorola squad led the pack into the finish.

The first racing stage of this year's Thüringen-Rundfahrt will be on Thursday, between Greiz and Gera.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by AFP Photo

  • Flowers are laid at the site where six members of the Australian women's team were hit by a car, killing one rider, Amy Gillett, and seriously injuring the other five
  • The bicycle of Mirjam Melchers van Poppel bears a black ribbon in memory of deceased Australian cyclist Amy Gillett
  • Danish rider Linda Serup starts the second stage with a black ribbon as a mark of respect for Australian rider Amy Gillett, who was killed in a training accident two days ago
  • Oenone Wood ('C) leads the field out for the neutralised second stage between Zeulenroda and Greiz

Images by Reuters

AIS flies in additional support staff

The AIS has mobilised a team of specialists to assist with counselling and recovery of the affected cyclists, and also support their close family and friends.

Head of the AIS Performance Psychology Department, Dr Michael Martin, said the specialist support services include:
Two AIS psychologists currently in Germany - Rosanna Stanimirovic, who works with the cycling team, and Ruth Anderson, who is the AIS Residential Athlete Counsellor.
A network of psychologists in state institutions and academies of sport across Australia are in contact with affected athletes, coaches, support staff and athlete families.
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC - Australia's peak sports funding body) has employed specialist trauma and grief psychologists to support institute and academy psychologists to take care of those affected by the tragedy.
The ASC has also retained a European-based company to provide additional trauma and grief counselling to European-based athletes, coaches, program staff and family.
The National Athlete Career and Education program has an athlete counselling support service available for additional specialist support.

"This is the most serious trauma incident involving Australian athletes overseas in recent memory,"' Dr Martin said. "It is important to realise that while the impact on the athletes themselves is the most severe, the flow on effects to family, friends, colleagues and support staff is also significant and needs to be managed in the short and longer term.

'Those close to the athletes who believe they might need psychological and/or counselling support shouldn't hesitate to contact the psychology department at the AIS or any of the state and territory-based sports institutes and academies," he said.

Condolensces and tributes

Cyclingnews has now published three pages of tributes from cyclists and supporters from around the world who've been affected by this tragedy. Please see: Amy Gillett: Tributes, Part 1, and More tributes to Amy Gillett, 1976-2005 and Part 3 (posted July 21).

Cycling Australia has also established an email link for people who wish to send condolence messages to the family of Amy Gillett or to pass on their thoughts and wishes to those injured. Go to Cycling Australia's web site and follow the link on the home page.

Related stories:
July 21: AIS head 'optimistic' about recovery; 'Brownie' tries his best
July 19: Unprecedented carnage in Germany
July 18: Amy Gillett dead after crash in Germany

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