Carla Swart dies following accident

Updated: January 20, 2011, 8:45 AM ET
Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG -- Carla Swart, a South African cyclist who won several college titles in the United States, has died after being hit by a truck while training. She was 23.

Swart was training Wednesday in the central Free State province when she turned into the path of an advancing truck, Cycling South Africa said.

Carla Swart
AP Photo/Chris JenkinsCarla Swart won 19 individual and team cycling titles at Lees-McRae College.

"I think she would have been the greatest cyclist in our history if she had lived," CyclingSA director Hendrik Lemmer told The Associated Press on Thursday.

After dropping her cycling computer, Swart looked over her shoulder to check if the road was clear and made a U-turn that put her in the path of the oncoming truck. She apparently looked over her left shoulder, as one would if cycling in the United States, instead of the right. In South Africa, vehicles drive on the left.

Swart, who moved to the United States with her family as a teenager, attended Lees-McRae College in North Carolina and earned running and cycling scholarships.

She won 19 individual and team cycling titles with Lees-McRae, becoming the first cyclist to win all four U.S. collegiate titles -- road, track, mountain and cyclocross -- in one season in 2008, according to the school.

"Carla represented everything you want in a student-athlete; she was caring, compassionate and competitive. Her impact on so many will last a long time," Lees-McRae athletic director Craig McPhail said. "While recruiting her 6½ years ago, I could tell she was truly special, and I am very proud to have had her represent the green and gold of Lees-McRae College."

Swart had recently signed with the U.S.-based HTC-Highroad cycling team, whose members wore black armbands Thursday during a race in Australia.

At last year's world championships, Swart finished 10th in the women's road race. She took eighth at the Commonwealth Games in India in October.

"At a time like this, words about what happened, why, and how are usually asked and bring little comfort," Lees-McRae cycling coach Luke Winger said. "However, when I think of the impact that Carla Swart had on this earth, I know that we will all remember her for the life that she lived."

Lees-McRae said it will start the Carla Swart Memorial Scholarship in her honor, awarded annually to "a female cyclist who demonstrates a love for the sport and exhibits great promise as a cyclist."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press