Photo: Getty Images
THE Australian swimmer Meagen Nay is no stranger to tragedy. Her father, the Olympian Robert Nay, died in a car accident when she was four years old.
And on Saturday, just as she was about to begin racing at the world championships in Rome, she learnt that her brother, Amos, 28, had been killed in a car accident on the Gold Coast.
Remarkably, the 20-year-old decided to swim in her first event at the championships.
Nay was told of her brother's death by her coach, Michael Bohl, but decided to swim in the 4 x 100 metres freestyle relay, for the sake of her teammates. News had been relayed earlier in the day by Nay's stepfather, Peter Milburn, that Amos had died in a car accident on Saturday morning.
Nay's father Robbie, who as a 15-year-old, swam at the 1972 Munich Olympics, was killed, aged 37, in a car accident just north of the Gold Coast, at Labrador, in November 1992.
Stephanie Rice, Nay's training partner in Bohl's St Peters Western squad, spoke after her heat swim in the 200m individual medley, saying her friend had been devastated. "She's pretty good. Obviously she's extremely heartbroken, but I think it's so great she's got Bohly and the rest of our squad and the Australian team supporting her, and her family is here with her, which is probably the best thing, and I just hope they can get through this as best as they can."
Queensland police reported Amos Nay's vehicle, a Toyota Hilux utility towing a trailer, had been travelling north along the Pacific Motorway at Chinderah, near Dodds Lane, when it left the road and hit a sign post about 10.20am.
It rolled and the driver had died on impact. Police said it was unclear what caused him to lose control of the vehicle.
Nay's mother Karen, Mr Milburn, and Meagen's sisters Jess and Fiona, are all in Rome to watch her compete.
The Australian head coach, Alan Thompson, broke the news of the accident to the team on Saturday night.
"Our thoughts and condolences are with Meagen during this difficult time," he said in a statement issued by Swimming Australia.
"We ask that everyone respects her privacy and that of her family at this time."
Nay made the breakthrough into international swimming last year when she qualified for the Beijing Olympics in the 200m backstroke event, eventually finishing seventh in the final.
She has a busy program in Rome. As well as competing in the heats of the 4 x 100m freestyle relay, she is scheduled to swim the 200m freestyle tomorrow, the 200m backstroke on Friday, and the 4 x 200m freestyle relay on Thursday.
When she won the 200m freestyle at the Australian titles in March, Nay spoke to the Herald about the significance of winning the event her father had contested in Germany.
"Yeah, I think it was really special winning that event," she said at the time. "I kind of inherited good genes in the 200m freestyle I think. Apart from making the team and things like that, it meant a real lot to me as a person. The significance of it wasn't lost on me, and it was quite a very special moment."
According to Bohl, her preparation for the titles has been perfect, and big things had been expected.
As to whether she competes beyond the opening day is yet to be determined, and she will "play it day by day".
"It is just unbelievable. Everyone is absolutely devastated," the team spokesman, Ian Hanson, said. "She is going to swim this morning in the heats of the relay today … she is swimming for the team.
"The message from Meagen to Bohly, to the team, was she does not want a fuss. She just wants to try and get through today. At this stage who knows what is going to happen after today."