A TALENTED Fylde coast sportsman has been killed in a tragic cycling accident.
Triathlete James Atherton, 25, a former pupil of King Edward and Queen Mary School, died after suffering serious injuries in a collision with a car while out training.
The gifted student and former deputy head boy was studying for a PhD in medicine at Southampton University.
The terrible crash happened when Mr Atherton was hit while cycling through Hampshire’s New Forest.
One of his best friend’s told The Gazette how the talented sportsman, of Headroomgate Road, St Annes, would be “sadly missed” by all who knew him.
Sam Auty, from Hambleton, had been friends with Mr Atherton since they joined KEQMS’ juniors as seven-year-olds, and said: “I met James on day one. At school he was unbelievably sporty and took his sport really seriously.
“He was the sort of person who did the sport but had the brains as well. He was very intelligent. James had the best of the both worlds and he would never say a bad word against anyone.
“He was very popular. He’ll be greatly missed.”
Mr Atherton – who had competed in a cycling race only the previous day – was with a group of fellow cyclists when he was in collision with a VW Golf just before 11am on Sunday.
He was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital, but he later died on Monday.
Mr Atherton studied at KEQMS until the age of 18, and captained the private school’s cricket first team as well being vice captain of the rugby first team.
Mr Atherton’s former school today issued a touching a tribute to the ex-pupil.
Judith Cooper, deputy headteacher at the school now known as AKS Lytham, said: “James was an outstanding young man and a great ambassador for KEQMS.
“He was fully involved in all aspects of school life, was a popular student and highly respected by staff and students.
“James was deputy head boy, captain of the first XI cricket team and vice-captain of the first XV rugby team. He represented his county, he was a talented artist and a keen mountain biker.
“Our thoughts go out to his parents and brother Charles at this tragic time.”
On Facebook, his former KEQMS PE teacher Andy Weston wrote: “I can’t think of many words, but have some great memories.”
Mr Atherton’s father, Dr Martin Atherton, is a doctor at Park Road Medical Practice, based in the St Annes Health Centre on Durham Avenue.
After leaving KEQMS, the student studied for a sports science degree at Bangor University, in Wales, before moving to Southampton.
He was awarded a sports bursary by the university in 2010/11 for long course triathlon.
In Hampshire he was a member of the Portsmouth-based VC St Raphael cycling club and also rode for his university’s cycling club and had previously competed with Southampton Triathlon Club (STC).
Mick Waite, spokesman for the VC St Raphael club, said: “James was making good progress at the club and everyone spoke very highly of him.”
Dr Nicola Englyst, Mr Atherton’s PhD lead supervisor at Southampton University, said: “James was an extremely talented student who was in the final year of his PhD in the Faculty of Medicine.
“He was very much looking forward to completing his doctoral thesis and continuing with his research into how blood vessels maintain their health.
“James’ was generous with his time and energy and always had time for anyone who asked for his help and he will be sorely missed.
“James was someone who was just so good at everything he put his mind to. His death is a terrible end to a wonderful life.”
Chairman of the Southampton Triathlon Club (STC) Julian McCarthy added: “The local triathlon and cycling community is close knit, and we were devastated to hear of his tragic death at such a young age.”
The 57-year-old driver of the VW Golf involved in the collision was uninjured.
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