Helen Smart, a former Olympic swimmer who competed for Great Britain in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, has suddenly died at the age of 4. Smart, then known by her maiden name Don-Duncan, also won a bronze medal at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games and worked as a school principal at the time of her death.
The cause of Helen Smart's death is still not known. However, her loved ones have described it as "sudden." According to fresh reports, Smart was first spotted dead by her four-year-old daughter who alerted her husband, DailyMail.com reported. Tributes have been pouring in since the time news of her death broke.
Sudden and Unexpected
Smart was tragically found by her four-year-old daughter, who informed her husband by saying: "Daddy, I can't wake mummy up."
The 43-year-old mother of two was non-responsive when her daughter Heidi attempted to join her at 4 am during a family gathering in the Lake District. The family had been staying at a spacious cottage by the shores of Lake Coniston, and Helen had participated in paddle boarding at dusk on Friday evening, just hours before her death, Mailonline reported.
Speaking to the outlet, Smith's mother Linda said, "Heidi had woken up in the night and tried to get into bed with her. She said to her daddy: 'Mummy won't wake up.
"He said: 'Oh she must be very tired Heidi - you go back to bed.' "He put the torch on and he said later that when he looked he could tell.
"We are just in so much shock. You jump from believing it to not believing it."
She continued, "She had been paddle boarding a few hours before and had never even been ill apart from her knees swelling from swimming."
"We're distraught. They don't know what it is but they think it must have happened shortly after she went to bed. She just died in her sleep."
Smith had been for a morning swim at a local country club close to her home in Wigan on Friday. Following this, the family traveled to Cumbria to celebrate her brother Robert's 40th birthday.
Accompanying her on this trip were her husband, her daughter Heidi, and her young son Stanley, alongside her brother's family, her mother Linda, and her father John.
"At midnight, she went to bed telling me: 'I'll go to bed now mum as I know I'll be woken at 6am by Heidi. I just want to get some sleep in as I've had a long day," Linda said.
She added: "Robert woke us up at 4am and said: 'Mum, dad you need to keep up - we think Helen's died. We just ran up and followed up and there she was in bed.
"I touched her foot and she was cold. I walked round and to the side of her and she looked asleep but you could tell she was gone.
"I just said: 'Why couldn't it have been me.' I would have happily swapped places with her. That's not the way round it should have been. I just thought, no no."
A Star in Her Own Right
Smart gained recognition in the swimming world by achieving the title of British backstroke champion during the latter part of the 1990s. At the age of 19, she competed in the women's 50-meter backstroke and 200-meter backstroke events in the 2000 Summer Games.
Smart became a principal of Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School in Wigan, England, after retiring in the early 2000s.
Craig Smart, her bereaved husband, paid homage to his loving wife on the school's Facebook page.
"She loved the school, staff, children and parents so much," Craig Smart said. "She was so proud to reach her goal of being Head Teacher. 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. 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!"
John Don-Duncan, Smith's father, also paid tribute to his daughter on Facebook and shared a picture of her, Linda, and him.
"Helen was our pride and joy... we are so proud of her... she lit up a room as soon as she arrived.. Linda and I can't comprehend how she could just simply go to sleep and not wake up?! Xx," he wrote.
Elsewhere, Olympic medalist Sharron Davies wrote, "This is very sad news. Always a pleasure to interview & always a huge smile on her face. A Fierce competitor."