The NSW Institute of Sport is saddened to hear of the passing of highly regarded sports and clinical dietitian Helen O’Connor.
Helen had a tremendous impact on the sports nutrition profession including staff and athletes at NSWIS, and across Australia in her various roles and will be dearly missed by many.
Among her long list of achievements, Helen was instrumental in setting up the nutrition program at NSWIS when it was founded in 1996, developing a network of dietitians to service athletes whilst developing NSWIS Sports Medicine Seminars. Helen recruited NSWIS Senior Dietitian, Sally Walker in 2009 and a valued mentor to NSWIS Dietitian Holly Edstein.
During her time at the Institute, Helen published a series of nutrition cookbooks with one of Australia’s leading food editors and best-selling cookbook author Donna Hay, targeted at athletes, which became the basis for nutrition education and cooking skills classes for NSWIS athletes.
An Associate Professor in her field at the University of Sydney, the inaugural chair of Sports Dietitians Australia was an inspiration for all sports dietitians. Helen’s passion for her industry was unsurpassable.
During the Sydney 2000 Olympics Helen helped set up the first Sports Nutrition Kiosk and nutrition website within the athlete village. This allowed for athletes to have consultations with a sports dietitian and develop their own nutritionally balanced menu plan. Following the Games, a number of research studies into the dietary requirements of elite athletes were produced from the information collected.
Helen was selfless in her pursuit to advocate good health and good nutrition to so many sports athletes, students and the public, always finding ways to make nutrition understandable and accessible at every level. She lived her life with purpose as an innovator, pioneer and supporter, always coming up with new ways to make nutrition grow and evolve at NSWIS whether that be through the sporting groups she worked with or through the research she was involved in. Helen’s legacy will live on through all the sports dietitians she has educated and impacted through her exceptional work ethic and values.
Acknowledging her tenacity for the industry, Helen was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for services to sports nutrition in 2000 and later a fellowship with Sports Dietitians Australia in 2005.
NSWIS offers our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, colleagues and students of Helen O’Connor.