Katie Archibald, the double Olympic champion, paid an emotional tribute to her partner Rab Wardell at his funeral. Wardell died aged 37 on 24 August after suffering a cardiac arrest while lying in bed with Archibald, just days after he was crowned Scottish mountain bike champion.
Hundreds gathered at Dunfermline Crematorium for the service on Wednesday, with the procession carrying his coffin joined by cyclists as it headed to the service. Archibald told the service how Wardell would go out of his way to help his friends and family. “He might have always arrived late, but Rab would never leave a friend who needed it,” she said.
Archibald said Wardell had first told her he loved her while they were out on a bike ride together. She recalled: “I was aghast, I said: ‘You can’t say that here, in the rain, on a bike ride’. After chastising his timing, I told him the truth, that I loved him too. From then on I told him that every day. In some ways it’s a comfort that Rab knew how much I loved him.”
She said that when they were apart, he used to send her love songs, and a recording he sent to Archibald of himself playing You Can Talk To Me was broadcast to mourners. In it he could be heard saying: “So I had this funny idea to sing you this song”, before telling her the “downside for me is it’s all a little high for me, so I will strain and sound silly at some bits, but I’m not scared”.
Mourners laughed when at the end of the song Wardell could be heard swearing as he said it had not been very good. The Very Reverend Hunter Farquharson, conducting the service, told Archibald: “I didn’t know you were going to keep that bit in.”
Wardell had won the Scottish MTB XC Championships just days before his death and had appeared on television the evening of his death to talk about his victory. Archibald fought to save his life when he suffered cardiac arrest but was unable to do so.
During the service, Mr Farquharson said he remembered Wardell coming into church as a youngster with his parents. Wardell’s father Jack paid tribute to him at the service, and joked about his son that in hindsight it was “no surprise he came in a rush, two days late” when he was born in June 1985.
He told mourners how much his son loved bikes, and ended his tribute by saying: “He has touched many people’s hearts, and inspired many more. “He made us laugh, he made us proud. Rest in peace.”