Pavle Jovanovic, a talented brakeman who competed for the U.S. bobsled team at the Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006, has died by suicide, according to social media reports. He was 43.
“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,” former teammate Steve Mesler shared on his Instagram Saturday.
A native of Toms River, New Jersey, Jovanovic took up bobsled at age 20 and proved to be a natural brakeman.
“Pav was the best teammate anyone ever had,” Mesler, who went on to win an Olympic gold medal as a push athlete in 2010 and is now on the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee board, continued. “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 you cared about your own. He taught me about the need for being mentally healthy — not for life, but for athletic success.”
Three-time Olympic medalist bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor posted on her Instagram story: "I was only on the team with Pavle for a short time but while I was, it was never a dull moment. He was one of the first bobsledders who showed me how to be elite. RIP Pavle".
At 25 he was preparing to make his Olympic debut at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City when he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was subsequently disqualified.
Following a two-year ban, he came make to make the 2006 Olympic team in both the two- and four-man bobsled events, where he served as a push athlete for driver Todd Hays in both. The sleds finished seventh in both races. In addition to his Olympic success, Jovanovic earned 19 medals on the world cup circuit since the 2004-05 season, the first season in which online records were kept.
After competing on the world cup circuit for the U.S. through 2008, Jovanovic raced five times for Serbia in 2011. According to his LinkedIn page, he had been working as a welder and fabricator in Toms River.
“We lost another good one in sliding sport this past week,” Greg Sand, a former bobsled athlete and assistant coach for the U.S. skeleton team, shared on his Instagram. “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.”
During the month of May, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has joined the nationwide movement to promote Mental Health Awareness Month. The USOPC is focused on raising awareness around mental health resources and needs within the Team USA community and promoting a culture that encourages proactively seeking and delivering mental health support for everyone. For more information and resources, please visit TeamUSA.org/MentalHealth.
If you or someone you know is experiencing an urgent mental health issue, we encourage you to text HOME to 741741, or call (800) 273-8255 to speak to a mental health professional. In the process of helping yourself, you may be inspiring courage in others to seek help as well.