It is never easy whenever anyone dies in the world of sports there are questions.
Was it worth it? Were they doing what they love? Why did they — why does anyone — feel the need to push boundaries?
You can do your own pondering but, outside of those questions, we’d like the celebrate the athletes who passed away in 2015, who lived big and went big and were loved.
When renowned climber and BASE jumper Dean Potter passed away in a wingsuit incident in Yosemite in May, it set off a cavalcade of questions about risk and reward, and whether sports are inherently selfish.
Regardless of what you think about whether or not Potter should have been flying where he was, or pushing it, a few things are unarguably true. Potter excelled at whatever he tried to do, from free soloing to slacklining. He was never not controversial — his free solo of Delicate Arch in 2006 set off another huge, firey debate — but he was a mentor to a lot of people, and he made whatever he did look like art.
Graham Hunt, who died in the same wingsuit flight as Potter gets, unfortunately, pegged as the other man in the incident.
That's in part because of Potter's wideranging glow, but it's also because Hunt, a prolific climber and a Yosemite fixture, tried hard to keep himself out of the spotlight. He climbed and flew because he loved it.
Will Olson might not be a name you recognize if you don't live in the Vail Valley or ride enduro races. But Olson, who passed away in August after hitting a tree in an unwitnessed accident during the Crested Butte Enduro World Series Race, was one of the best and most modest riders on the Big Mountain Enduro circuit.
According to Bike Magazine, "In his first race, at Snowmass in June 2014, Olson was the fastest of all but one amateur riders, beating most of the 200-plus men by a wide margin. This year he surpassed a handful of pros at the same event.”
The 40-year-old was well loved and respected for both his riding and his attitude, and his death still feels confusing to the people who knew and rode with him. He is remembered as a thoughtful, smart rider, who had ridden the section of trail where he died hundreds of times.
The Australian BASE jumper, circus performer and climber, whose given name was Toby Benham, died in September after sustaining head injuries while attempt a stunt called the "Death Swing," a 90-foot rope swing in the Blackheath climbing area, in Australia's Blue Mountains.
Benham also known as Lucky Chance was known for taking chances, and had recently survived several close calls, including a previous one at the Death Swing, where his parachute wrapped around his ankle. He was 32.
Erik Roner was a skier first, but the Nitro Circus star, BASE jumper and extreme dad, was a lot more than that.
Beloved for his goofy attitude and his ability to never take himself too seriously, even in serious situations, Roner had been a member of the Nitro Circus family since 2005, and before that had filmed with TGR.
Roner, who was a prolific ski-BASE jumper passed away in a routine skydive near his home in Tahoe in September. He leaves behind his wife Annika and two kids.
It might be most accurate to call Johnny Strange, who passed away in a wingsuit accident in Switzerland, an adventure athlete. Strange gained acclaim for his climbing skills as a pre-teen and hadn't slowed down since then.
According to a foundation set up by his family, "Johnny’s feats gained him recognition at a very young age. At age 12 he climbed his first world-class peak, Mt. Vinson Massif in Antarctica. This began his journey towards climbing all seven of the world’s highest peaks, a goal which he achieved at the young age of 17.
“This feat put him in the record books as the youngest person to successfully summit the highest peaks on all seven continents. Since then, he’s gone on countless adventures all over the globe."
He was 23 when he passed away in October.
One of the most terrifying aspects of terrorism is its randomness and scope.
French BMX pro Mathias Dymarski, was killed in the attacks on Paris in November.
The 22-year-old and his girlfriend were at the Eagles of Death Metal concert and were both among the victims.
The death of Dymarski, who was known for his flatland tricks and his constant positive attitude, was a shock to the BMX community.
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