Team GB Olympian dies ‘suddenly’ aged 43 as devastated husband pays emotional tribute

A former Team GB swimmer has “suddenly” died at the age of 43.

Helen Smart, then known as Helen Don-Duncan, secured a bronze medal in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, and scooped silver medals at the World and European Championships. The athlete was a backstroke specialist but retired from the world of competitive swimming to become a headteacher.

After representing Great Britain at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, she went on to become a respected and “beloved” headteacher at Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School on Clifton Street in Wigan, as reported by Daily Mail.

The tragic news of her death was confirmed in an emotive post on Facebook. Alison Halliwell, the school's chair of governors, penned: “It is with great sadness and regret that I have to announce the sudden death of our beloved headteacher, Mrs Helen Smart.

“Our heart-felt condolences are sent to Helen's family at this very difficult time. I know this news will be a shock and cause great sadness to our community.

“I want to reassure you that the governors of Worsley Mesnes School are working with the local authority and school to ensure that our children, staff and parents will receive the necessary support in the coming weeks. Further information/updates will be issued as and when they are available.”

In response to the touching tribute, Helen's husband Craig Smart said: “She loved the school, staff, children and parents so much. She was so proud to reach her goal of being headteacher.

“She used to say to me all the time she could never see herself at another school. She was Worsley Mesnes through and through!

“I remember only last week she said her goal was to get the school to outstanding and that she had the right staff to achieve this! I hope you all keep learning like champions.”

He added: “Please learn from this and live your best life, no regrets, take lots of photos, make memories and keep smiling just like Helen always did! Love to you all! X”.

At the time of writing, no details have been released regarding her death.

Rachael Ashcroft, who swam alongside Helen in Lancashire, English and British teams, said she was lucky enough to have been friends with her for 32 years. She said: “Helen was special – the type of person you want your children to grow up to be like.

“From the moment I met her, aged 11 at Everton Park Sports Centre, I immediately liked her. I think we bonded over our slightly unusual and unique surnames and, of course, our love of swimming. I just found her easy to be around, especially when I was so nervous before I competed.

“Helen's steely determination and natural competitive spirit always inspired me. We competed against each other many times but somehow it always felt like we were competing with each other, helping each other along the way.”

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