Kite Foil Racer Jackson James Rice Dead at 18 in Diving Accident Just Before His Olympic Debut

The young athlete was set to represent Tonga in the upcoming Paris Olympics

<p>Jackson James Rice/Instagram</p> Kite Foil Racer Jackson James Rice

Jackson James Rice/Instagram

Kite Foil Racer Jackson James Rice

Kite foil racer Jackson James Rice is dead at 18, just weeks before he was set to make his Olympic debut, his father Darren Rice confirmed to the Matangi Tonga News.

Darren informed the local Tonga outlet that Jackson, who often went by the nickname JJ, was free diving from a boat in Faleloa, Ha'apai on Saturday, June 15 when a suspected shallow water blackout occurred.

According to the National Library of Medicine, a shallow water blackout is the loss of consciousness due to cerebral hypoxia "towards the end of a breath-hold dive in shallow water," and is "typically caused by hyperventilating just before a dive, which lowers the carbon dioxide (CO2) level and delays the diver's urge to breathe."

The young athlete's body was reportedly found by other divers on the seafloor below the boat around 12:15 p.m., according to Matangi Tonga. Attempts were made to resuscitate Jackson, but he died from the injuries, Darren confirmed to the outlet.

Jackson had been preparing to represent Tonga at the 2024 Paris Olympics prior to his death.

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Matangi Tonga reported that his sister, Lily Rice, penned a tribute to her brother on Facebook one day after the accident. “I was blessed with the most amazing brother in the whole world and it pains me to say that he’s passed away," she wrote.

<p>Jackson James Rice/Instagram</p> Kite Foil Racer Jackson James Rice

Jackson James Rice/Instagram

Kite Foil Racer Jackson James Rice

"He was an amazing kitefoiler and he would have made it to the Olympics and come out with a big shiny medal," Lily added. "He made so many amazing friends all over the world."

According to CBS, Jackson was set to become the first Caucasian athlete to represent Tonga in the Olympics.

Although he was born in the United States to British parents, Jackson grew up in Ha'apai and represented Tonga in multiple international kite foiling events over the years, Matangi Tonga reported.

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During an interview with the same outlet one month prior, Jackson said "I've lived in Tonga my whole life, I see myself as a Tongan."

Most recently, Jackson competed in the 2024 Formula Kite World Championships in the South of France, per the Tonga newspaper.

A funeral will be announced at a later date, according to Matangi Tonga.

Kitefoiling is one of the new events in the Olympic Games, debuting in Paris this summer.

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