Former British Olympic swimmer Smart dies aged 43

Helen Smart
Helen Smart set a British record time for the 200m backstroke to qualify for the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000

Former Great Britain Olympic swimmer Helen Smart has died at the age of 43.

Smart, nee Don-Duncan, represented Britain at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 in the 200m backstroke.

She also won a bronze medal in the same event at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with Helen’s family, friends, as well as those in the swimming community who trained, competed and worked with her,” a British Swimming statement said.

Smart won silvers at the World Short Course Championships of 1999 and the European Short Course Championships the year before.

She was crowned European Junior champion in the 200m backstroke in 1996.

Smart set a British record time in qualifying to secure her place at Sydney 2000 and went on to place 15th at her debut Games at just 19.

After the Olympics, she retired to become the headteacher at Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School in Wigan.

Former Commonwealth champion Karen Pickering said: “Helen was a fierce competitor, gritty in training but humble in her victories and medal successes.

“I will remember her most for her sense of humour, laughter and the smile that rarely left her face. Any lane or room was happier when she was in it.”

Sarah Price, Commonwealth champion in the 200m backstroke at Manchester 2002, added: “Swimming brought us together, a northern lass and a southern girl that shared the same love for swimming backstroke.

“I am so grateful for all the memories we had together travelling the world, where we spent so much time training and racing.

“I had the utmost respect and admiration for ‘DD’ as a swimmer and friend. Whether we were racing, training or just hanging out, she was so gracious in all she did and was extremely funny and kind.”

Helen Smart
Helen Smart became headteacher at Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School in Wigan

World and Commonwealth backstroke champion Katy Sexton, who made her Olympic bow alongside Smart, said: “Helen was such a vibrant character, always happy and a great friend and room-mate.

“She was such a dedicated athlete and had an amazing work ethic which she carried into her life outside of sport. She will be greatly missed and my biggest sympathies go to her family.”

Alison Halliwell, chair of governors at Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School, said: “Our heartfelt condolences are sent to Helen’s family at this very difficult time.

“I know this news will be a shock and cause great sadness to our community.”

Smart’s husband Dan added in a tribute on the school’s Facebookexternal-link page: “She loved the school, staff, children and parents so much.

“She was so proud to reach her goal of being headteacher. She used to say to me all the time she could never see herself at another school. She was Worsley Mesnes through and through.

“I remember only last week she said her goal was to get the school to outstanding and that she had the right staff to achieve this. I hope you all keep learning like champions.

“Please learn from this and live your best life, no regrets, take lots of photos, make memories and keep smiling just like Helen always did.”

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