Heartfelt grief for untimely passing of cycling legend Garen Bloch

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Olympic cyclist Garen Bloch was a legend, having won 16 South African national titles, set four national records, and being named Maccabi Sportsman of the Year (1994-1996). But this week, his close friends are battling to come to terms with his tragic death in a motorbike accident.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Aug 02, 2018

Bloch, 39, was laid to rest in Israel last week surrounded by his parents and siblings. He died on 21 July, after it is understood that his motorbike hit the pavement in Veldspaat Street in Polokwane, near to where he lived. He was renowned for track cycling, climbing to third in the world rankings at his peak.

Garen competed for Team South Africa in the 2000 Summer Olympics at the age of 22 in Sydney in the men’s 1 000m time trial, and came eighth. He also came in third at the 1997 World Cup in the points race, and second in the 1999 UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classics.

Bloch had been living at the Meteffect Recovery Centre, working as a drug and alcohol addiction councillor. It was here that he won his own 12-year battle against drug and alcohol addiction, and turned his life around.

Bloch’s passing has been described as all the more tragic following his Herculean recovery, which turned him into a valued member of the Polokwane community. He had been clean for three years and 33 days, said his partner, Michele Dix-Peek this week.

She said that Bloch had dedicated himself to giving back to the community and picking up the pieces of his fractured life, in which she saw him go from “cycling hero to drug addict and back to being a hero again”.

“Garen had a profound impact on the community of Polokwane,” said Dix-Peek, the owner of Meteffect Recovery Centre where the couple met several years ago. A passionate martial arts practitioner, he had recently opened a martial arts studio of his own, called Fight or Flight Dojo, and was teaching the discipline.

In an interview with the Polokwane Observer earlier this year, Bloch relayed his story of addiction and his inspiring journey of recovery in the hope that it would reach other addicts and motivate them to seek help. He described meeting Dix-Peek at Meteffect when he was at the lowest point in his life. She offered him a hug, and this somehow gave him the courage he needed to move on with his life.

Bloch’s cycling achievements speak for themselves, but his dream of competing in the 2004 Olympic Games was shattered following a back injury which took him out of the competition. He took a break to heal, with the idea of training for the following Olympics in 2008. However, his hopes were further dashed when his injury worsened. This led to a period of darkness, said Dix-Peek.

At a memorial service held in his honour on 26 July, members of the Polokwane community and residents of Meteffect expressed their heartfelt condolences and sadness at his sudden passing. They heard stories of his impressive cycling days, and spoke of his passion for motorbike riding, martial arts, animals, and children.

“Garen loved martial arts, his dog, Asha, riding his motorbike, and helping people, especially children. I take comfort knowing that he died doing what he loved best,” said Dix-Peek.

His passing came as a shock to those in cycling circles who remember him as being “in a league of his own”.

“People said Garen was a genius on a bicycle,” his cousin Carey Bloch told the SA Jewish Report this week.

“He was an unbelievable athlete, probably one of the best cyclists South Africa has ever seen. He will be sorely missed and remembered for being a fierce competitor,” he said.

Bloch was the younger brother of the well-known cycling champion and Olympian cyclist, Sean Bloch.

He started cycling after watching his brother compete in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, believing he too could one day represent his country at the Olympics. He was 14 years old when his dad, Mervyn, bought him a bike.

According to those who knew him, he showed enormous talent from a young age.

“I remember him giving cycling idol, the late Alan van Heerden, a run for his money when he was only 15 or 16 years old, beating him in the sprints with restricted gears as a junior cyclist in Germiston. Garen dominated the track,” said Carey Bloch.

He said Bloch was “a quiet, humble guy who never blew his own whistle. His actions always spoke louder than words”.

The family lived in Glenhazel, and he attended Yeshiva College and later King David Linksfield.

His lifelong friend, Jared Kahan, said of him: “I’ve known him through all his successes, achievements, hardships, and downfalls. He was a special man, born with pure, raw talent.”

He described Bloch as “loving and caring – someone you could call anytime of the night knowing he’d be there. His death is a huge loss, he had so much more to contribute to the cycling world and the community in general.”

A moving letter addressed to members of the Capri Wheelers, a club Bloch belonged to for many years, said that Bloch would “certainly be remembered for his achievements on the bike. Yet, all his achievements and talent paled in comparison to the size of his heart. We truly believe that we never got to see him achieve his full potential, on and off the bike.”

Janine Bloch, married to Carey, said she would always be grateful to him for his compassion after her daughter fell ill with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an illness which causes temporary paralysis.

“Garen visited her every day in the hospital, massaged her legs, and helped her recover by doing exercises with her in our swimming pool when she got out of hospital. He was a major part of her recovery.”

Mario Nell, a former South African professional track cyclist who won gold in the World Masters Games Scratch race in 2009 said of Bloch, “He was one of those guys who put in the hard yards and tried to win the right way. Whatever he did, he did it all out. He was a good person, and he is definitely going to be missed.”

He is survived by his parents, Mervyn and Sandra, his brother Sean and sister Charlene Jacobs.

1 Comment

  1. 1 richard rothschild 03 Aug
    Sincere condolences to the whole family.


    Didn't know him but know his brother Sean. 
    Sounds like a really good guy. A very sad loss.
    Wishing the family all the best and sending sincere condolences to all of them.



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