Farewell to a star

2013-01-11 00:00

FAMILY, friends, cyclists and sports officials arrived in their hundreds to bid farewell to Olympic mountain bike hero Burry Stander.

About 300 mourners came dressed in takkies and white clothing, a request from the family as it was Stander’s favourite colour.

Global tributes from fellow mountain bikers were put on display at the Norwegian Settlers Church in Port Shepstone, where the funeral was held.

Those gathered heard how 25-year-old Stander dreamt of being a star in his chosen sport, his ambitions being to make the top ten in the world. He achieved a major milestone in 2009 when he became the under-23 world champion.

Stander was killed after being hit by a minibus taxi while on his bike last Thursday.

Njabulo Nyawose appeared in court on Monday and was released on a warning. He faces a charge of culpable homicide and is scheduled to appear again on March 22.

Amid high emotions, Stander was described as a family man, a team player and someone ahead of his time.

“He was an incredible human being and always thought about others other than himself,” said brother Duane Stander.

Some of the messages from fellow cyclists said Stander would be remembered through cycling, as many of his stories were told through the sport.

Across from Duane was Cherise Taylor, Stander’s wife, who cried throughout the service.

The last words Stander reportedly told her were: “I love you”.

Paying tribute to his brother, an emotional Duane said: “We love you, we miss you and you will always cycle on in our hearts. You are gone but not forgotten.”

The words hit Taylor hard and she broke out into further sobs.

Stander was buried on Bali Hai Farm in the family plot.

Trevor Downham, the pastor who led the church service, gave a fiery sermon, lambasting the state of road safety in the country.

He said there was a sense of anger as to why such accidents that have robbed the nation of a champion still occur on our roads.

“We pray that government listens to us. Accidents happen, but the rest of the country is crying to the leadership to do something.

“We do not want to be seen as complaining, but we need to say what we need to say,” he said.

President of Netball SA Mimi Mthethwa said the organisation was behind the Standers, and offered her condolences.

“Burry Stander assisted with preparing for the Olympics and we are here to pay our last respects.

“We would like to send our deepest condolences to the family.”

Patrick Hlongwane, head of Sascoc in KwaZulu-Natal, said: “Cycling is under Sascoc and what happens to them affects us all.

“I am glad that the attitude towards the accident has changed.”

• ayanda.mdluli@witness.co.za

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