Editor’s Note: This tribute was written by photographer Devon Balet. The original post can be found here.
Losing a friend I never had
This past weekend the mountain bike community lost a good man. I don’t know Will Olson personally, but that will never matter. Will was just like me, just like all the great friends I have. Will loved to ride his mountain bike and he was good at it. Really good.
The tragic events really started to hit home when I realized I had captured a shot of Will last year, on the very trail that took his life. To this day, I can remember him flying by, smashing through a creek crossing that seemed to give racers trouble. He made it look like a puddle with the ease he crossed it. His speed and control looked like a monster truck blowing up a mud hole with hundreds of horse power behind it. Throwing mud and water into the air as though a stick of dynamite blew up as he past by. I let out the loudest yell of excitement! I love seeing racers excel.
Video: Curtis Keene and Chris Ball pay tribute to a life taken way too soon. Go to 1:59 for the Will Olson story.
Will was your average Colorado mountain boy. He loved riding bikes and snowboarding, and he was talented at both. He camped at the races, sleeping in the dirt, just like I do. The more I learn about Will, the more I realize this was my friend. We have shared a cheers, I am sure of it. I have cheered him on down the mountain, and gave well wishes at the top. There is no doubt in my mind.
The days following our loss of Will’s physical self, the rains have hardly let up. I like to think it is Mother Nature washing Herself of what happened. A fresh start and a better appreciation for what we have. Going to sleep to the sound of gentle rain drops pinging off the metal roof of my van home. Laying there, I think of how crazy this thing called life really is. No one thinks that we might die as we roll up to the start line of a bike race.
I like to think Will was having a spectacular race run. That his mind was full of joy and excitement for being on his bike and racing in the mountains with his friends. To be so lucky to leave this world under such terms. Will was doing what he loved when he died. I hope for something so amazing as that. It doesn’t make the pain stop, or make the tears not fall, but it does make my heart smile.
I have always been proud in how I appreciate life. How I so often will stop to smell the flowers. Or to just look. These events have further reinforced this idea. Life is short and there are no guarantees. That thing you have always wanted to do, but keep putting it off waiting for the right time. Go for it. There is never a better time than now.
For the complete story and more photos, please visit Devon Balet Media here.