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Olympic mountain biker, 25, killed

 
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JOHANNESBURG (AP)

South African Olympic mountain biker and former age-group world champion Burry Stander was killed in a road accident while training near his home on Thursday. He was just 25.

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The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee confirmed the two-time Olympian's death and said the country's leading mountain biker died after a collision with a taxi in the Kwazulu-Natal province on South Africa's east coast.

Stander competed at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics and came fifth last year in the mountain bike race at the London Games. He was also a former under-19 and under-23 world champion and South Africa's biggest star in the sport and one of the world's top riders.

"I'm totally shattered," SASCOC president Gideon Sam said, calling Stander "talented, ultra-competitive but at the same time extremely humble and a true gentleman."

Sam said the entire South African sporting community mourned Stander, a message that was underlined by a flood of tributes on social media from fellow sportsmen and women — but also from politicians and celebrities.

Multiple Paralympic medalist and double-amputee athlete Oscar Pistorius said on Twitter he was "utterly devastated" by Stander's death.

"A South African Icon and sporting great. RIP my friend," Pistorius wrote.

Cycling South Africa said Stander was the country's most successful mountain biker and "a true icon and sporting role model."

Stander won South Africa's Cape Epic stage race with Swiss teammate Christoph Sauser in 2011 and the pair successfully defended their title in 2012.

"Never felt so empty since my dad passed away when I was a kid. (at)africanmtbkid I will never forget you," Sauser posted on Twitter, using Stander's Twitter name.

The national body said the circumstances of the accident near Stander's home in Shelley Beach, south of Durban, were still being investigated. Stander was the second leading cyclist to be killed in a road accident in South Africa in recent years after Carla Swart died in January 2011 when she was hit by a truck while on a training ride.

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