Pavle Jovanovic, a 2006 U.S. Olympic bobsledder, took his life on Sunday. He was 43.
U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton confirmed Jovanovic’s death on Saturday. A number of U.S. bobsled team members remembered him on social media.
“Pav, I can’t believe another one of these needs to be written,” was posted on Olympic teammate Steve Mesler‘s Instagram. “I can’t believe it’s you I’m writing this about. My personal legend – the athlete that set the standard for focus, dedication, meticulousness, and drive – tragically took his own life at the age of 43.”
Mesler wrote that Jovanovic was the best bobsledder on the planet for six years, “and I wanted to be just like him.”
Jovanovic, after missing the 2002 Olympics due to a contested positive drug test, placed seventh in the 2006 Olympic two- and four-man events as a push athlete in driver Todd Hays‘ sled.
A year earlier, Jovanovic was a push athlete in Steven Holcomb‘s sled at the world championships. Holcomb was found dead in his U.S. Olympic Training Center room in Lake Placid, N.Y., on May 6, 2017.
“Today we mourn the second bobsled Olympian in the last three years,” Mesler wrote. “Today I mourn the second of the six men I competed at the Olympics for my country with to be laid to rest too soon. ‘Bro’, that’s a problem.”
In 2002, Jovanovic missed the Olympics after testing positive for a banned steroid less than two months before the Salt Lake City Winter Games. He was suspended two years. Jovanovic insisted he unknowingly took a contaminated supplement and sued the manufacturer.
Mesler was put on the 2002 Olympic team in Jovanovic’s place, according to reports at the time, and later lived with Jovanovic in a Calgary house. Hays’ quartet earned silver without Jovanovic in Salt Lake City, the first U.S. men’s bobsled medals since 1956.
Jovanovic’s parents were from the former Yugoslavia. He first saw bobsled watching the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Games on TV and played middle linebacker for Rutgers before becoming a bobsledder.
“I only was on the team with Pavle for a short time but while I was, it was never a dull moment,” was posted on three-time U.S. Olympic bobsled medalist Elana Meyers Taylor‘s Instagram. “He was one of the first bobsledders who showed me how to be elite. RIP Pavle.”
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Pav, I can’t believe another one of these needs to be written. I can’t believe it’s you I’m writing this about. My personal legend – the athlete that set the standard for focus, dedication, meticulousness, and drive – tragically took his own life at the age of 43. You won’t have to keep going to the line with that hamstring torn in half anymore, buddy. We’ll make sure your brother, your sister, & your parents know the person and athlete you were. @TeamUSA's Pavle Jovanovic (‘77-‘20) for 6 years was the best bobsledder on the planet and I wanted to be just like him. We did everything together – from sushi in Calgary to poker in Innsbruck to wind tunnels in Maryland and too many World Cup medals to count all over the world. Together with @billschuffenhauer, B-Rock, Hays or Holcy & our coach @fingermash, we were unstoppable. When Pav was removed from the ‘02 Olympic Team by USADA & CAS, I benefitted. That guilt laid with me until Pav became my roommate, teammate, and for quite some time, my best friend. He alleviated me of the guilt, even as he fought in lawsuits (and won) to clear his name. But he buried it deep and put it on himself. Then we went to the '06 @olympics, together. Pav was the best teammate anyone ever had. He knew your success would mean his success. He taught me that. He taught me to care about my teammates' sleep, nutrition, therapy, & work ethic in the gym and behind closed doors just as much as you cared about your own. He taught me about the need for being mentally healthy – not for life, but for athletic success. And that may have been part of his downfall. What happens when the person who is best known as being 150% focused or nothing– finds the nothing becoming what they become 150% focused on? In the last era without social media to show everyone how hard you were working everyday; when the only time an outsider saw the work you put in was when you stepped to the line for raceday – Pavle was King. He WAS the standard. Today we mourn the second bobsled Olympian in the last three years. Today I mourn the second of the six men I competed at the Olympics for my country with to be laid to rest too soon. 'Bro', that’s a problem.