Soon-to-be Olympian JJ Rice dies at age 18 after tragic diving accident in Tonga

Just weeks before he was set to represent Tonga at the 2024 Paris Summer Games, loved ones of 18-year-old JJ Rice confirmed he died during a horrific freediving accident over the weekend.

Rice, an American-born glider who was scheduled to make his Olympic debut in the new Olympic sport in early August, is believed to have suffered a blackout in shallow water – an often fatal condition in which a diver loses consciousness in shallow water.

Although born in America, Rice grew up in Tonga, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean where his parents owned and operated a tourist lodge, reports said. Matangi Tonga. He would have been the first Caucasian to represent Tonga at the Olympic Games.

said the young athlete’s father Matangi The tragic accident occurred on Saturday, with resuscitation efforts failing. Shallow water blackouts are often more deadly than typical drownings because the brains of the victims, often free divers, have already been facing extreme levels of oxygen for a long time.

Rice’s sister, Lily, posted a heartbreaking tribute to her brother on Facebook, describing him as “the most amazing brother in the whole world.” She added that he was destined to leave the Olympics “with a big shiny medal and an even bigger smile.”

“The last time I saw him, he hugged me so hard I wished I had held on longer,” she said.

Although he is a naturalized Tongan, Matangi She stated that Rice was proud to represent his new nation. Because Kitefoiling is an individual sport, he could have chosen to represent the United States, but he said he wanted to bring Olympic glory back to the small archipelago of 106,000 people.

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Rice’s father said he saved “many lives” when he was 15 years old Matangi He helped save 18 people from the capsized ferry. On another occasion, the grieving father recalls that Rice once swam behind a sand bar to rescue two girls who had been swept out to sea.

“He made so many wonderful friends all over the world because he was so loved and they will all miss him so much,” Lily said.

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