Nelson’s world famous freestyle mountainbiker Kelly McGarry, who died suddenly while riding in Queenstown on Monday, was like” Superman” to thousands of young children inspiring them to follow their dreams.
The 33-year-old from Wakefield tragically died after suffering a cardiac arrest while biking on the Fernhill Loop track at about 4pm. Two paramedics from Queenstown were flown to the track after reports of a mountainbiker suffering a medical incident but Kelly died at the scene.
A friend and well-known Nelson mountainbiking identity Chris Mildon says “Kelly was incredibly friendly and a wonderful guy who will be sadly missed”.
Although Kelly had been based in Queenstown, Chris says he always made time to come back to Nelson and visit the schools. Last year, during a visit to Waimea Intermediate he told the students that they could “achieve anything if they really put their minds to it”.
“We first met him when he was a teenager thrashing around on his bike on the tracks around Nelson,” Chris says. “He was always a real trailblazer so I wasn’t surprised he went on to become famous.
“But he always made time to visit the schools whenever he came back to Nelson. He was larger than life and a real legend to the kids – he was like Superman to them.”
Kelly, who attended Wakefield School, Waimea Intermediate and Waimea College before pursuing a career as a professional free-rider, backflipped to fame in the Red Bull Rampage in Utah in 2013. The GoPro video of Kelly’s electrifying and now famous backflip over a 21.9m canyon received over 28 million views on YouTube.
Former Waimea College classmates also paid their respects on Facebook, with many posting memories of Kelly – also known as Pams – in his younger days in Wakefield.
“Not many people in this world truly reach their potential but he sure did. Ever since Wakefield school days he didn’t mind having a laugh at his own expense,” wrote one.
Another posted: “What an absolute loss of legend of a person. You were one of the kindest most genuine people I knew mate, even when you hit the big time Pams, you didn’t change one bit! It was an honour to know you mate. I still look back at school days and laugh at shit you used to do and say.”
Kelly started riding BMX bikes and was a special guest at a BMX event at last year’s Nelson Bikefest.
Friends of Kelly’s had planned some drinks Wednesday night at the Speights Ale House to celebrate his life and share stories.