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Team USA Bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic Dies by Suicide at 43

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Pavle Jovanovic, a bobsledder who competed for the United States, has died by suicide at the age of 43. Team USA confirmed the news in a statement, indicating Jovanovic died on May 3.

“The winter sports community has suffered a tragic loss,” said USA Bobsled/Skeleton CEO Aron McGuire. “Pavle’s passion and commitment towards bobsled was seen and felt by his teammates, coaches, competitors, and fans of the sport. He lived life to the fullest and had a lasting influence on all those who had the opportunity to spend time with him.”

Jovanovic is best known for competing with the U.S. bobsled team during Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006. He competed as the team’s brakeman (for driver Todd Hayes) in both the two- and four-person bobsled events, where they came in seventh place in both races. Jovanovic won several medals on the world circuit before retiring. He was slated to compete in the 2002 Olympics, but received a two-year ban from the sport for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

“We lost another good one in sliding sport this past week,” Greg Sand, a former U.S. coach wrote on Instagram, adding:

Pavle was what you might imagine a Rottweiler in human form to be; tough as nails, built like a brick (expletive) house, and a work ethic forged by his family’s steel fabrication business. If you were going into the battle of competition, Pav was one of those athletes you wanted on your side.

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We lost another great one in sliding sport this past week. Pavle was what you might imagine a Rottweiler in human form to be; tough as nails, built like a brick shit house, and a work ethic forged by his family’s steele fabrication business. If you were going into the battle of competition, Pav was one of those athletes you wanted on your side. His low baritone “YO!” could light up a room as he slightly embellished stories on tour. I’ll long remember Pavle laughing and giving me shit, and maybe embellishing a little bit, the one time I had to actually push in a WC race heat at Königssee in his sled (definitely NOT our first choice). I can hear him now laughing and ribbing me about “going deeeeep (in his Jersey baritone)… although, I’m pretty sure he was just ecstatic I got in the damn sled lol. If there was ever a bobsledder born to push heavy objects, man it was Pavle. Pavle was definitely a one of a kind original. YO… RIP brother!

A post shared by Greg Sand (@slideonice) on

Other fans, friends and colleagues reacted to his death on social media and shared condolences.

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Pav, I can’t believe another one of these needs to be written. I can’t believe it’s you I’m writing this about. My personal legend – the athlete that set the standard for focus, dedication, meticulousness, and drive – tragically took his own life at the age of 43. You won’t have to keep going to the line with that hamstring torn in half anymore, buddy. We’ll make sure your brother, your sister, & your parents know the person and athlete you were. @TeamUSA's Pavle Jovanovic (‘77-‘20) for 6 years was the best bobsledder on the planet and I wanted to be just like him. We did everything together – from sushi in Calgary to poker in Innsbruck to wind tunnels in Maryland and too many World Cup medals to count all over the world. Together with @billschuffenhauer, B-Rock, Hays or Holcy & our coach @fingermash, we were unstoppable. When Pav was removed from the ‘02 Olympic Team by USADA & CAS, I benefitted. That guilt laid with me until Pav became my roommate, teammate, and for quite some time, my best friend. He alleviated me of the guilt, even as he fought in lawsuits (and won) to clear his name. But he buried it deep and put it on himself. Then we went to the '06 @olympics, together. Pav was the best teammate anyone ever had. He knew your success would mean his success. He taught me that. He taught me to care about my teammates' sleep, nutrition, therapy, & work ethic in the gym and behind closed doors just as much as I cared about my own. He taught me about the need for being mentally healthy – not for life, but for athletic success. And that may have been part of his downfall. What happens when the person who is best known as being 150% focused or nothing– finds the nothing becoming what they become 150% focused on? In the last era without social media to show everyone how hard you were working; when the only time an outsider understood the work you put in was when you crossed the line on raceday – Pavle was King. He WAS the standard. Today we mourn the second bobsled Olympian in the last three years. Today I mourn the second of the six men I competed at the Olympics for my country with to be laid to rest too soon. 'Bro', that’s a problem.

A post shared by Steve Mesler (@stevemmesler) on

If this news is hard for you, know you are not alone — and there is help for people who feel suicidal. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Originally published: May 11, 2020
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