Colin Oliver, pictured with Amanda Noye, died in the hospital he had worked in as a nurse. (Supplied: Amanda Noye)
The heartbroken partner of champion Tasmanian athlete Colin Oliver has said she wished she could have “met him sooner and loved him longer,” as Hobart’s athletics and nursing communities struggle to come to terms with his loss.
The 49-year-old, five-time winner of the city’s Cadbury Marathon died in the Royal Hobart Hospital on Tuesday morning, more than two months after a mountain bike crash at the Maydena Bike Park left him with catastrophic head injuries.
In a tragic turn of events, Mr Oliver passed away in the neurological ward of the hospital — the same ward in which he worked as a nurse.
Tributes have poured in for a man described by all as kind and thoughtful, “a wonderful gentleman” and “genuine nice guy” who would go out of his way during his lunch break on the ward to sit with patients who had no visitors.
His partner and fellow nurse, Amanda Noye, said she had maintained a bedside vigil in the weeks and months since the accident, and she’d “definitely thought there was a chance that he was going to be ok”.
“We had hope, because he’s such a fighter and we thought if anyone could get through this, Colin could,” Ms Noye told the ABC.
“It’s not just tough on me, it’s tough on my children and everybody that loved Colin. Colin’s mum and his brothers were up in Ulverstone, and his friends, and it’s only the last 12 weeks that I’ve realised how many people loved Colin and how many people he inspired and touched their hearts.”
Tasmanian Colin Oliver (in red) with fellow mountain bike riders in an undated photo. (Supplied: Amanda Noyes)
‘A wonderful man’
Mr Oliver grew up in Tasmania’s north-west and quickly carved out a name for himself in the athletics world before moving to Hobart and working in gardening and maintenance at the Glenview Nursing Home in Glenorchy.
Ms Noye said they were introduced by her sister and a friend of Mr Oliver’s, and although she says “I haven’t got one sporting bone in my body,” they hit it off and forged a life together.
“We were about to start building our new house, but everything’s been put on hold,” Ms Noye said.
“He was the type of person that would encourage you to live life outside the square and achieve little goals first. It was his genuine nature, his amazing smile and the fact he was able to lift people up when they were down, encourage people.”
“He didn’t have one selfish bone in his body. I wish I could have met him sooner and loved him longer.”
Mr Oliver’s close friend of more than 30 years, fellow athlete Russell Foley, sat with Mr Oliver every day in hospital after the accident.
A friend of Colin Oliver said “he had finally found happiness” with Ms Noye. (Supplied: Amanda Noyes)
Mr Foley said he was feeling “complete devastation” for “a wonderful wonderful man.”
“I could not really believe it,” Mr Foley said of his friend’s death.
“I only saw him three weeks prior and he was so happy, he had such a lovely relationship with Amanda, she was the best thing that ever happened to him.
“That was one of the hardest things, that I know that he’d finally found happiness. That was very, very tough.
“He battled hard. Since that first of March he’s battled and battled and battled. Unfortunately its his one marathon race he wasn’t able to finish.”
Mr Oliver was flown 85 kilometres to the RHH by air ambulance from Maydena, but never regained consciousness.
Fellow nurse Maria Ayres said Mr Oliver’s colleagues had been devastated by his death in his own workplace and he was loved by everyone, including people he treated while working there.
“He had patients asking for him to care for them,” she said.
“He was just an absolute angel of a nurse, he epitomised it beautifully. He brought this beautiful calm … he had this big beautiful smile on his face and he was always there to pick you up if you felt like things were overwhelming.
“He was always there to help you out if you got in trouble. The patients just loved that about him. He went above and beyond.”