Olympic Heartbreak: Rising Star Dies Before Paris Games Debut

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The family of Jackson James Rice has verified that the young Olympian passed away in a tragic accident.

Jackson James Rice's family has officially announced that he passed away just a few weeks before his groundbreaking performance.

At just 18 years old, Rice was set to be Tonga's representative at the Olympic Games in .

CBS reported that he qualified for a kite-foiling event and was going to be the first Caucasian to represent his small nation at the Olympics.

JJ, an 18-year-old also known as JJ, passed away in Faleloa, Tonga, on Saturday (June 15). His father, Darren Rice, informed local media that the cause of death was a ‘suspected shallow water blackout'.

A shallow water blackout happens when someone loses consciousness because their brain doesn't get enough oxygen at the end of a breath-hold dive in shallow water, as stated by the National Library of Medicine.

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Jackson James Rice, a qualified kite-foiling athlete, was poised to become the first Caucasian to represent his small nation in an Olympic Games event.(/@jj__rice)

It is usually a result of excessive breathing before diving, which reduces the carbon dioxide (CO2) level and postpones the diver's need to breathe.

While free diving from a boat, he tragically had an incident and was found under the boat at 12:15pm. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Lily, his sister, expressed her deep feelings for her brother on social media.

On , she wrote: “I was blessed with the most brother in the whole world and it pains me to say that he's passed away.

“I don't even know what to say, I don't know what to do, or what to think. I miss JJ beyond belief, I'm in shock I still can't believe it and it will take all of us who loved JJ so long to feel ok again.

“He was an amazing kitefoiler and he would have made it to the Olympics and come out with a big shiny medal … he made so many amazing all over the world.

“I will try my best to use what he taught me to be even a tiny bit as amazing as he was.”

Jackson, born to British parents in the , was raised in Ha'apai and competed for Tonga in various international kite foiling competitions.

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His family has since come out and confirm that the news of his passing (Instagram/@jj__rice)

He told Matangi Tonga Online one month ago: “I've lived in Tonga my whole , I see myself as a Tongan.”

In an interview with the same news source, his father shared a remarkable story about his son. When he was just 15 years old, his son bravely put his life on the line to rescue 18 individuals from a boat that had overturned near Faleoa in 2021.

The publication will announce the funeral at a later .

Kite foiling is a brand new event making its debut in this year's Olympics.

The ANOC world beach games organization defines the sport as a combination of sailing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, surfing, and paragliding, all in one extreme sport that takes place on water, snow, or land.

Image Credit: Facebook/Lily Rice / Instagram/@jj__rice

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