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Kite Foil Racer Jackson James Rice Dies at 18 Prior to Olympic Debut

Photo: Leitner, Wil

Jackson James Rice, who was weeks away from representing Tonga in the new kite-foiling event at the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics, has died at the age of 18 following a diving accident, News.com.au reports.

Rice, who would've been the first caucasian to represent Tonga in the Olympics, died from what is being reported as a "suspected shallow water blackout" in Tonga on Saturday (June 15). The 18-year-old was reportedly free diving from a boat when the tragic accident took place.

Rice's body was located at 12:15 p.m. local time and subsequent resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, his father, Darren, confirmed to the Matangi Tonga. The kite-foiling racer's sister, Lily, shared a tribute to her late brother on her Facebook account Sunday (June 16).

“I was blessed with the most amazing brother in the whole world and it pains me to say that he’s passed away,” Lily wrote. “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 friends all over the world.”

Rice was born in the United States to British native parents but raised on Ha'apai. The teenager finished eighth at the Sail Sydney event in December to qualify for the upcoming Olympic games, which will feature kitefoiling for the first time in history.

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