"People who knew her will tell you, she was a phenomenon. She broke all records. She started cycling only a short time ago to gain strength in her legs for the Olympic triathlon," Gough's mother, Karen Clarkson, of San Leandro, said. "She won every race she entered. She was her happiest when she was out on her bike or running," she said.
"She had road accidents before and she would always tell me how dangerous it was, that bikes were invisible, that people did not see them and even sometimes, they would go out of t heir way to run her off the road," Clarkson said.
"She was run off the road once in Orinda," she said.
"If anything can be said about this, it's that people need to know that roads are to be shared, roads are for people traveling, not just for cars. This was a very valuable person and she was also my little girl," she said.
She was born in Germany, her parents are American and she lived part of her life in San Leandro, and in Falls Church, Va.
In high school, she excelled in basketball, her mother said.
She chose not to finish college so she could devote her time to her sport, she said. "She traveled the world winning races.
She won a big one in Brazil a year ago. She won a race in Hawaii." Ironman triathlons were her passions, she said.
"She had the most endearing, sarcastic sense of humor," she said. "She wanted to be treated like a guy."
But she was also a daughter who visited her mom frequently. "She'd come over at least two times a week to watch American Idol. She was in love with one of the guys named Jason. She thought he was so sweet. She cried when he sang a song."
Friends on Sunday described Gough as a professional triathlete who recently took up cycling but immediately started winning Northern California races. The most recent was the Merco Credit Union Foothills Road Race in Merced County on March 2.
"It's a huge loss for our team," said Anthony Borba of Campbell, the captain of the Third Pillar, Gough's team. "Besides being a phenomenal talent she was a phenomenal human being."
Interviewed at Stanford hospital late Sunday night, Borba said Gough was "an Olympic hopeful" being scouted for the Summer Games in Beijing.
"It's just so sad that these two athletes who were just coming into their own were struck down," Borba said. "We're all in shock."
Contact Staff Writer William Brand at email@example.com.
Media News Staff Writers Leslie Griffy and Joshua Molina contributed to this report.