A tribute to Burry Stander

Grief. How do you explain it to a two-year-old? How do you tell him that it is ok for daddy to cry? How do you show him where to kiss it better?

South African sport was robbed of one of its brightest stars on the third of January 2013. Burry Stander was more than just a mountain biker doing great things within his chosen sport. The tributes that continue to pour in, a day after this tragedy, are from across the sporting and non-sporting spectrum, locally and internationally. There are tribute rides self-starting across South Africa, and even as far afield as California, where MTB  Hall-of-Famer Brian Lopes is organizing a classic Laguna ride in his honour.

What could have been? Where could Burry have taken his talent, his dedication and his smile? Have we been robbed of a home World Championships win (the 2013 edition will be in Pietermaritzburg…)? We will never know, but at 25 years old (I can’t type that without welling up again) all we do know is that Burry’s World U23 championship win, his World Cup wins, his Olympic contention, were all just an opening act. What was in Act II – World Champion? Olympic Champion? And Act III… maybe a cameo Cadel-Evans-esque Tour de France career? We will never know; thanks to somebody’s momentary lack of concentration/reason/self control/something, it is the epilogue. Details of the accident are still sketchy, and, to be honest, don’t matter. We can’t go back and change anything, so let’s not dwell on that, let’s rather get on our bikes and pay tribute to an inspirational role-model.

Cherise, god I don’t even know where to start. I remember vividly walking on the beach with you in Italy in 2008, when Burry was back in SA and not responding to your half-hourly SMSs. Your deep love for him, was clear to all of us even then, when you were both silly teenagers. You are so blessed to have loved, and be loved, and to have had that ripped away so soon is a travesty. You fought such hard battles together last year, and you did so with the most amazing levels of courage, strength and belief. You are going to need all of those in truckloads to get through this, but you will. I can think of nobody stronger. And you have the collective grief and support of the entire cycling community to power your healing and grieving.

And I have even managed to teach my little boy, sort of, what heartache is. He kissed my chest, where he now knows the heart is, told me it was all better, and then wrestled me to the ground, with the best giggle in the world, and a smile from here to Port Shepstone.

RIP Burry Stander.


Image: Kolesky/Nikon/Lexar

  • The last paragraph has me sobbing at my desk. If only a little kiss would make this all better… RIP Burry.

    South Africa has not got many note-worthy role-models. Today, we are one less. Burry you were an inspiration to the youth and your peers. You will be missed..

  • Burry, what a legend, an amazing person. Lived his life doing what he loved best. You will be missed greatly. Our hearts hurt due to your loss.

  • Steven Morrison

    I miss you already Burry. Hope you RIP and may GOD take you further.

  • Nicely written Tim. Remember so vividly Burry in the Hilton forests so clearly ahead of his competition with Mandy and Charles looking on so proudly. Thoughts are with his whole family.

  • Nick

    Very well put Tim. I am so sad. RIP Burry.

  • Beverley Wood

    To be so devasted about a boytjie I’ve never said a word to. To feel as if something has been taken away from me. To grieve the end of a love story I had not one minute of. To mourn what could have been, a story that has only just begun. Testament to a husband, son, brother, uncle, friend and role model that so so many of us wanted to add our names to. Go well Burry, too soon but you did us so proud. Enough for a lifetime x

  • thanks Tim, a well written article. Every tribute read and posted is part of the healing process.

  • Nicky Smit, Johannesburg

    My prayers are with Burry’s family and friends, I also pray that justice comes to the driver, it is unaceptable that this has happened, the rules and law of the road is ignored by drivers and not enforced. There are hardly any policing on our roads and we must insist that our streets are patrolled and reckless drivers be taken off our roads.

  • Mark Staniforth

    RIP Burry, a great role model and inspiration, strength to his family and friends……a tragic loss

  • Natty Newbie

    Beautiful Tim. This awful accident leaves a big hole of sadness in our world. My heart goes out to Burry’s family.

  • stuart lindsay

    Rip Burry Stander my heart goes out to the family,well writen Tim,what a great loss to a wonderful sport.

  • Ruth Knight

    My heart is broken, my thoughts are with Cherise and the family especially today when he is laid to rest