The father of the British snowboarder Ellie Soutter who died suddenly on her 18th birthday believes the intense pressure of competing in elite-level sport may have contributed to her death.
Tony Soutter said his daughter, who was tipped to represent Britain at the 2022 Winter Olympics, was unhappy about missing a flight shortly before her death last Wednesday which 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’s funeral is scheduled to take place in Les Gets on Thursday 2 August, comprising a church service followed by a private cremation.
Soutter, 53, believes his daughter’s history of mental health problems and the pressure she felt may 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.”
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.
Soutter added he had lost his “best friend” and called for action to support young athletes with their mental wellbeing. He said: “Mental health awareness needs to be really looked at and made more public.
“I have lost my best friend, my total buddy. She was my rock.”
Last week, 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 organisations to provide support for athletes. A spokesman said: “This is a desperately sad situation and our thoughts are with all of Ellie’s family and friends.
“We are working with all of our Olympic and Paralympic programmes and the mental health charity Mind to make sure appropriate support is in place.”
In a statement, British Ski and Snowboard said: “Ellie was an incredibly popular and well-liked member of the team and the country has lost a great talent.
“The wellbeing of all athletes across every discipline is the primary concern of any sporting organisation.
“We commend the family for setting up the Ellie Soutter Foundation and they have our full support.”