Team USA Bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic Dies by Suicide at 43

Renee Fabian
Bobsleigh sport. Render 3D. Illustration.
Bobsleigh sport. Render 3D. Illustration.

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.”

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

View this post on Instagram

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 May 9, 2020 at 10:49am PDT

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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.

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