Olympics star, 18, dies just weeks before Paris Games following tragic diving accident

  • An athlete has died just weeks before making his Olympic debut
  • Jackson James Rice suffered a tragic diving accident
  • He would participate in kite foiling in Paris

Jackson James Rice has died in a tragic diving accident just weeks before he was due to make his Olympic debut in Paris.

Rice, 18, was set to become the first caucasion athlete to represent Tonga at the Games, which would have been a historic first, but a freak accident has stripped him of the distinction.

His father, Darren Rice, confirmed the devastating news of his son’s death to Matangi Tonga newspaper.

The boy’s death occurred on Saturday in Faleloa, located on the island of Ha’apai in the Tonga archipelago.

According to Matangi Tonga, Rice was freediving from a boat when he allegedly blacked out in shallow water.

Kitefoiling star Jackson James Rice died a few weeks before his participation in Paris

The 18-year-old was due to represent Tonga at the Olympic Games next month

The 18-year-old was due to represent Tonga at the Olympic Games next month

Attempts to revive the 18-year-old were unsuccessful.

In a Facebook post, his heartbroken sister Lily said: ‘I was blessed with the most wonderful brother in the world and it saddens me to say he has passed away.

“He was a great kite foiler and he would have made it to the Olympics and come out with a big shiny medal. He has made so many wonderful friends around the world.”

Tributes poured in on social media, with one friend writing: ‘I can’t put into words what I’m feeling right now. I still can’t believe it. When I woke up to this news, I thought you were playing a game.

“You are the most wonderful friend anyone could ask for and anyone who has spent time with you will agree.”

Rice was born in the United States and grew up in Ha’apai, where his family runs a tourist lodge.

He earned his Olympic berth last December after finishing eighth at the Sail Sydney event. He was due to compete in the kite foiling in Paris – the first time the event has been held at a Games.