Olympic swimmer Helen Smart was found dead by her four-year-old daughter – she said: “Dad, I can’t wake mum.”
Helen, 43, “suddenly” died this weekend after retiring from her medal-winning career as a principal.
The distinguished athlete, a backstroke specialist, swam for Team GB at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games under her maiden name, Helen Don-Duncan.
She also won a bronze medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and silver at both the World and European Championships.
Mum of two, Helen retired from the sport after the Sydney Olympics and later became the principal of Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School in Wigan.
Now Helen’s mother Linda has told how she was found dead by her four-year-old daughter at 4am on Saturday.
Linda told it post: “Heidi woke up in the night and tried to get into bed with her.
“She said to her dad, ‘Mom won’t wake up’.”
“He said, ‘Oh, she must be very tired, Heidi — go back to bed’.”
“He put on the flashlight and later said when he looked he could see it.”
The grieving Linda shared how just hours before her death, Helen went paddleboarding at dusk with her husband Craig and children Heidi and Stanley – and was not ill.
‘PRIDE AND JOY’
Helen’s father John also paid tribute to his daughter after her tragic death at the age of just 43.
He said: “Helen was our pride and joy – we are so proud of her. She lit up a room as soon as she arrived.”
“Linda and I can’t understand how she could just fall asleep and not wake up.”
Helen’s husband Craig Smart said: “She loved the school, the staff, the kids and the parents so much.”
“She was so proud to have achieved her goal of becoming a Headmistress. She always said to me that she could never imagine becoming anyone else again.” School.
“She was Worsley Mesnes through and through!
“I remember just last week she said her goal was to make the school a stellar destination and that she had the right staff to make it happen.”
“I hope you all continue to learn like masters. Please learn from this and live your best life with no regrets.”
“Take lots of photos, create memories and keep smiling like Helen always did! All the love to you!”
Meanwhile, Olympic medalist Sharron Davies paid tribute to the “fierce competitor”.
She wrote on social media: “This is very sad news. It is always a pleasure to interview her and she always has a big smile on her face. A tough competitor.”
Team GB swimmer Katy Sexton, who made her Olympic debut with Helen, added: “I’ve been trying to find the words to say but I’m so shocked by the news I don’t know what I should say.”
“Helen was such a vibrant character, always happy and a great friend and roommate.
“She was such a dedicated athlete and had an amazing work ethic that she carried into her life outside of sport.”