The international canoe racing community is shocked and deeply saddened by the death of 2004 Olympic silver medalist and German slalom coach Stefan Henze. On Monday, Henze succumbed to head injuries that he sustained in a car accident last Friday morning in Rio near the Olympic Park when the taxi carrying Henze and German team sports scientist Cristian Katini hit a concrete barrier.
Henze’s family were beside him when he died. He was 35. Katini suffered only minor injuries.
According to Die Welt, Henze was an organ organ donor, and following his death, his family approved the removal of his heart, liver, and both kidneys, successfully transplanting them to four critically ill patients — in effect, saving four lives.
German Canoe Federation President, Thomas Konietzko, said Henze’s death still leaves an enormous hole in German canoeing.
“He was an Olympic silver medal winner, he was a coach,” Mr Konietzko said. “With the bottom of his heart he worked to improve his athletes. He was an important part of our German canoe family. He will leave a big gap, we can never fill that gap.
“We will keep him in our thoughts. It’s a terrible moment for the German Canoe Federation.”
Mr Konietzko said the entire German team had been badly affected by the news, but the athletes were doing their best to remain focused.
“Our team has been affected by the sudden death of our coach, but we decided that our athletes have worked very hard for four years for this competition, so we think we should keep this terrible accident and the death of their coach away from the athletes,” he said.
“We will find the right moment after the Olympic Games to commemorate his life.
“It’s very difficult for his family, but we are glad they were able to join him during his last days. Our thoughts are with his family and his girlfriend.”
Wir sind tieftraurig. Ruhe in Frieden, Stefan, Du bleibst für immer in unseren Herzen. pic.twitter.com/NAVoVQ9SUU
— Kanu-Slalom Team GER (@kanuslalom) August 15, 2016
International Canoe Federation Secretary General Simon Toulson said the death of Stefan Henze had shocked the entire canoe family.
“The ICF is completely devastated over the untimely death of Stefan Henze,” Toulson said. “He was well respected and well known in the canoe slalom family. He was a very talented athlete who won an Olympic silver medal, and then went on to become a well-respected young coach in our sport.
“An unfortunate car accident has left us all feeling numb. We just hope his family can achieve some happiness in the months to come, knowing that he was much loved and respected by the canoeing family.”
Toulson said the ICF would commemorate the life of Stefan Henze after the Olympics.
“The German Olympic Committee has asked us not to do anything to mark the passing of Stefan just yet, because they don’t want to interfere with the preparations of their other athletes,” Toulson said. “We respect that decision, and we will find some way of honoring Stefan after the Olympics, probably at the next two World Cups.”
IOC President Thomas Bach has also issued a statement on the death of Henze. “The IOC is mourning the loss of a true Olympian,” he said. “Our sympathy is with the family of Stefan Henze, his friends and all of the German Olympic team. We will honor his memory tomorrow by lowering all the German flags at Olympic Venues to half-mast.”
— Planet Canoe (@PlanetCanoe) August 16, 2016