The world of sports and education mourns the untimely passing of former Olympic swimmer and distinguished school head, Helen Smart. Tragically, Helen, known for her accomplishments in swimming as well as her dedication to education, peacefully passed away while asleep during a family holiday in the beloved Lake District, a place she held close to her heart.
Loved ones and those touched by her extraordinary life are grappling with the sudden loss, commemorating Helen as an “adored” and “much-loved” sister, mother, wife, and daughter. Her vibrant spirit, warm smile, and ability to illuminate every room she entered are cherished memories for those who had the privilege of knowing her.
At the age of 42, Helen Smart’s life was tragically cut short while she was on a weekend retreat near Lake Coniston in Cumbria, celebrating her brother Rob’s 40th birthday. Amongst her family members, including her parents, husband Craig, two children, and extended relatives, she met her unfortunate end. Just before her passing, Helen had engaged in paddleboarding in the lake, epitomizing her zest for life and love for outdoor activities.
The Lake District held a special place in Helen’s heart, a sentiment she shared with Nicola Hill, whose sister is married to Helen’s brother Rob. This picturesque destination, which she often frequented, evoked feelings of happiness and a sense of belonging for Helen.
Nicola recounted the events leading up to her untimely passing, stating, “We were all together, celebrating Rob’s 40th birthday as a family. She retired for the night, and that was the last time we saw her. It’s just a colossal shock. She was in good health, which makes her loss all the more bewildering. It’s akin to a nightmare that we are yearning to wake up from.”
Helen Smart’s legacy encompassed achievements in both sports and education. Representing Team GB, she competed in the 200m backstroke at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and earned medals at prestigious events like the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the 1999 World Short Course Championships. Beyond swimming, Helen played an active role in Pemberton Old Wigan DW Band.
Her dedication and passion extended to the realm of education. Following in her father’s footsteps, who was also a teacher, Helen became the beloved headteacher at Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School. Known for her motivating presence and proactive nature, Helen left an indelible mark on her students and colleagues alike.
Nicola fondly remembered Helen’s boundless enthusiasm and her indomitable spirit. “Helen was always the motivator in every situation, the first one to step up and take action. Her energy was contagious. She embodied an extraordinary work ethic that she carried with her from her early days as a swimmer, which propelled her through her Olympic journey and into her career as a teacher.”
The outpouring of grief and tribute following her passing serves as a testament to Helen Smart’s significant impact on the lives of those she touched. Her legacy lives on through her accomplishments, her dedication to fostering young minds, and the countless memories she shared with her family, friends, and the communities she touched.
Helen’s family has initiated an online fundraiser to create a memorial in her honor within the cherished Lake District. A “selfie spot” is envisioned as part of the memorial, honoring Helen’s passion for capturing moments through photographs.
Nicola expressed, “Our aim is to have a memorial in the Lake District, a place Helen held dear. She was known as the ‘selfie queen’ due to her love for taking selfies, even during our recent trip. This memorial would serve as a lasting tribute, a place where individuals can remember their loved ones and keep Helen’s memory alive.”
In the wake of her passing, Worsley Mesnes Community Primary School and Tyldesley Swimming and Water Polo Club have shared their condolences and recognition of Helen Smart’s remarkable contributions to both education and sports. As the world remembers and honors her legacy, Helen’s spirit lives on in the memories of those whose lives she touched.
Donations can be made to the Gofundme for Helen’s memorial here.