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JJ Rice, kite foiler with Olympic dreams, dies in a diving accident at the age of 18

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JJ Rice, kite foiler with Olympic dreams, dies in a diving accident at the age of 18

An 18-year-old kite foiler who dreamed of representing Tonga at the Olympics has died in a diving accident.

Jackson James Rice, a US-born son of British parents who grew up on the island, died Saturday of a suspected blackout in shallow waterhis father, Darren, told Matangi Tonga newspaper.

Rice was freediving from a boat when he suffered a suspected blackout. Divers found Rice’s body on the seabed and attempts to revive the teen failed.

The Olympic Games officially start on July 26 and kite foiling will become a competitive sport for the first time. Rice reportedly came eighth at Sail Sydney in December and had high hopes of qualifying for the Paris Games, but revealed in a message on social media on May 25 that “a few mistakes” on his part had put his Olympic dreams on hold until 2028.

Rice’s sister, Lily Rice, paid tribute to her brother on Facebookwhere she said he “was so talented and great at everything he tried” that he “would have made it to the Olympics and come out with a big shiny medal.”

The International Kiteboarding Association also honored Rice’s memory on Facebook, saying that “his passion was as high as the kites he rode.”

But Rice won’t be remembered in Tonga just for his athleticism.

Rice’s father told the Matangi Tonga that his then 15-year-old son had tried to save people at sea in 2021 when a ferry capsized, and on another occasion he had saved the lives of two girls.