Sport

Olympic medallist Sarah Tait remembered as a fighter, says Canberra rower Sarah Cook

London Olympic Games silver medallist Sarah Tait has been remembered as a fighter and a tenacious competitor after she died on Thursday at age 33, following a three-year battle with cancer.

Retired Canberra rower Sarah Cook partnered Tait in the pairs boat in 2010 when Tait was making her comeback after the birth of her first child, Leila.

Sarah Tait shows off her medal to daughter Leila after winning silver at Eton Dorney in 2012.
Sarah Tait shows off her medal to daughter Leila after winning silver at Eton Dorney in 2012. Photo: Jason South

The news of Tait's death hit hard around the country as the tight-knit Australian rowing community came to grips with losing a three-time Olympian.

Tait was diagnosed with cervical cancer after the birth of her second child Luca in March 2013. Leila was born in 2009.

Sarah Cook was in the pairs boat with Sarah Tait in 2010.
Sarah Cook was in the pairs boat with Sarah Tait in 2010. Photo: Graham Tidy

Cook and Tait teamed up to chase World Cup glory and formed a relationship as a close team.

"I was her first international boat after having Leila. Leila was only about nine months old when we started rowing together, it was a juggling act for her," Cook said.

"She was the first mum to race for Australia in women's rowing and the first to win a medal. Absolutely she was a fighter.

"She was never the biggest or strongest, she was considerably lighter in fact. But she was this little battler, a little fighter who was always such a fierce and strong competitor."

Sarah Tait and daughter Leila in 2012.
Sarah Tait and daughter Leila in 2012. Photo: Craig Sillitoe

Tait competed at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She won a silver medal in the coxless pairs at the Games in London.

Not only an Olympic medallist, Tait was known for being part of a group of female athletes who proved that mothers "can not only continue to compete at an elite level, but also win medals".

The Australian Olympic Committee confirmed her death in a statement on Thursday, with president John Coates paying tribute to her achievement and calling her an extremely talented rower.

"Among her amazing achievements Sarah pioneered a change in attitude by Rowing Australia with the introduction of their family friendly policy allowing children of athletes to be reunited with their mums while away for extended periods of time training and competing," he said.

"The legacy she leaves for younger women who would like to pursue both motherhood and elite sport is truly inspirational."

In 2012 Tait told Fairfax Media about how she became pregnant with her daughter Leila three months after the Beijing games.

She was determined to make the London team, so she trained by swimming up to 15 kilometres a week until three weeks before she gave birth.

Tait was back in full training when Leila was five months old.

She retired from the sport when she was diagnosed with cancer, on the advice of her doctor.