Former Olympic Swimmer Helen Smart Dead at 43

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In Memoriam: Fallen Stars of 2023

The sports world is mourning the loss of an Olympic athlete.

Helen Smart, a former swimmer for Great Britain has died, the school she served as head teacher at confirmed in a statement. She was 43.

“It is with great sadness and regret that I have to announce the sudden death of our beloved Headteacher, Mrs Helen Smart,” a note published to the website of Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School in Wigan, England, read. “Our heart-felt condolences are sent to Helen’s family at this very difficult time.”

As the statement noted, the news “will be a shock and cause great sadness to our community.”

“I want to reassure you that the Governors of Worsley Mesnes School are working with the local authority and school to ensure that our children, staff and parents will receive the necessary support in the coming weeks, the statement, signed by Chair of Governors Alison Halliwell, continued. “Further information/updates will be issued as and when they are available.”

Beneath the statement of her death, the school included a message Helen—who swam competitively under her maiden name Helen Don-Duncan—wrote for the website, giving insight into her passion for working in Wigan.

“Following on from my career in swimming, my next goal was to become a teacher and maybe one day, lead a school within the town in which I was educated myself—Wigan,” her bio read. “I’m living my dream. My mission is to ‘pay it forward’, give back to the community all the support that I was so lucky to be given as a child, because the children and community at WMCPS deserve the best and can achieve anything if they learn like a champion!”

Helen’s husband Craig Smart reflected on her life and devotion to the school community in a lengthy comment below the institution’s statement shared to Facebook.

“She loved the school, staff, children and parents so much,” he wrote. “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!”

Helen Smart/ Twitter

Craig even revealed that shortly before Helen’s death, she shared her hopes for the upcoming school year.

“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!” he added. “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! Love to you all! X.”

Prior to her career as an educator, she swam as part of Team Great Britain in the late ’90s, winning a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1998, before taking home silver medals at the World and European Championships. She then came in 15th place during the 200m backstroke event at the 2000 Olympics.

Jamie McDonald/ALLSPORT

Following the news of her death, Helen’s teammates in the water shared their fondness for the fallen educator. 

“Helen was special—the type of person you want your children to grow up to be like,” former Great Britain teammate Rachael Ashcroft said in a statement. “I never heard a bad word uttered by anyone about Helen and how could they. She was always kind, thoughtful and looked after everyone, especially me.”

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