18-year-old Olympic Hopeful Tragically Passes Away Before the Games 


It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of 18-year-old J.J. Rice’s untimely passing. This talented young man was set to represent Tonga’s kitefoiler team at the Paris Olympics this summer. J.J. would have not only been a remarkable athlete but also the first Caucasian to represent Tonga at the Olympics.

Kitefoiling, an exhilarating sport where athletes ride a board up to 1m above the water’s surface, was recently recognized as an Olympic sport. J.J.’s potential and dedication to the sport were immense. Countless people from all over the globe admired his skills and considered him a favorite for winning a shiny medal.

Tragically, J.J.’s life was cut short on June 15th due to a devastating incident while free diving off a boat in Faleloa. It is suspected that he suffered from a “shallow water blackout.” Despite valiant efforts to revive him by those who were with him, their attempts were unsuccessful.

J.J.’s sister, Lily, took to Facebook to express her deep sorrow and honor her incredible brother. She described J.J. as the most amazing brother one could ask for and shared his immense passion for kitefoiling and making friends all over the world. Lily also remarked on J.J.’s exceptional talent in various endeavors, emphasizing the huge void his absence leaves in their lives.

Born in the United States to British-born parents, J.J. and Lily were raised in Ha’apai, where their family operates a tourist lodge. J.J.’s passion for kite foilboarding began early, and his immense skills and determination showed promise even from a young age.

We extend our deepest condolences to J.J.’s family, friends, and all those who had the pleasure of knowing this incredible young man. His memory will continue to live on, and his impact on the world of kitefoiling will be remembered forever.

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