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Days Before Suicide: 'If I Am Not an Athlete, I Am Nothing'

Kelly Catlin was 'obsessed with success': 'NYT'
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2019 9:45 AM CDT
Updated Apr 13, 2019 5:30 PM CDT
US gold medalist Kelly Catlin poses after winning the women's individual time trial cycling competition at the Pan Am Games on July 22, 2015.   (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)
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(Newser) – A Stanford graduate student with an Olympic silver medal under her belt, Kelly Catlin was bound for "something great." Or so her mother thought. Poised for a shot at gold with the US women's cycling team at the 2020 Olympics, Catlin felt differently. In a January email—sent around the time she first tried to kill herself by inhaling noxious gas—the 23-year-old described thoughts "spinning, spinning, spinning" through her head as if they were "never at peace," reports the New York Times. One of a set of triplets, she told her brother she was filled with rage and feared she was a danger to others. She also wondered, "What is it like to no longer have a mind?" Then, on March 8, Catlin was found dead of a suicide in her campus residence. She previously told her sister she would rather suffer than appear weak by seeking therapy.

The siblings' parents taught that greatness came with hard work. "Looking back, maybe we kind of twisted that into thinking we weren't worth anything if we weren't the best," sister Christine Catlin tells the Times. "I think Kelly believed that." Beginning in the third grade, Catlin ordered herself never to love or get close to others. She was "so obsessed with success," says Christine. Mark Catlin—who previously faulted Stanford, per the San Francisco Chronicle—believes the mindset contributed to his daughter's death. Still, a brain study aims to determine if a Jan. 5 concussion was in any way linked. The injury and others stemming from the January suicide attempt kept Catlin from the world championships in February. "If I am not an athlete, I am nothing," she later wrote. Christine responded with a note slipped into her sister's coffin: "I love you without all your accomplishments," it read. (Read more suicide stories.)

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