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IOC 'Shocked' by Death of French Athletes in Helicopter Crash

A man stands near the smoking remains of a helicopter that crashed with another near Villa Castelli in the La Rioja province of Argentina, March 9, 2015.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Tuesday mourned the death of three French sports stars, including two Olympic medallists, in a helicopter accident during the filming of a reality show.

Olympic swimming champion Camille Muffat, bronze medalist boxer Alexis Vastine and yachtswoman Florence Arthaud were among 10 people killed when two helicopters collided in Argentina on Monday.

“We are shocked by this sad news,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these great athletes who have left us.”

“With them, the world of sport and the Olympic family have lost three of their key members. They were all not only champions in their sport but also contributed greatly as role models.”

The victims: yachtswoman Florence Arthaud, Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat and boxer Alexis Vastine.
The victims: yachtswoman Florence Arthaud, Olympic swimmer Camille Muffat and boxer Alexis Vastine.

Arthaud, 57, was one of the first women to carve a place for herself in the top levels of sailing with a 1990 record for the fastest solitary crossing of the Atlantic.

Muffat, 25, won 400 meters freestyle gold at the 2012 London Olympics and silver in 200 meters as well as a 4x200 meter freestyle relay bronze.

Vastine, 28, won bronze at the Beijing Games four years earlier.

The IOC said the Olympic flag would be flown at half-mast for three days at its headquarters.

World swimming federation FINA said Muffat, who retired in 2014 and finished on the world championships podium four times, was an inspiration to younger athletes.

“The FINA family is shocked with the dreadful news,” said FINA President Julio Maglione.

“Muffat was a talented swimmer and a human being of great value. She was and will remain a role model for the youth in France and a true inspiration for all those aiming at becoming successful swimmers,” said the Uruguayan.

Other athletes paid tribute on social media.

“An enormous thought for Camille, Alexis and Florence and the others. Tragic. They made France and their sport grow,” said France's Laure Manaudou, who won the same gold as Muffat at the 2004 Athens Games.

“She [Muffat] succeeded me, we shouted for her, cried for her victories, we cry for her tragic disappearance. We shared strong moments, publicity campaign photos, we boxed, danced, laughed and now we are mourning.”

Former British swimmer Rebecca Adlington, who won two golds at the Beijing Games and took 400m freestyle bronze behind Muffat in 2012, remembered her as “genuine and gracious.”

“Every athlete who wins a gold medal at the Olympics is on cloud nine, but I could tell with Camille how much it meant to her,” she added.

“She couldn't stop smiling and when I wished her good luck for her 200m later in the week she smiled and just said it didn't matter anymore as her dream had come true.

“Camille was only a year younger than myself, she was only 25. She was very inspiring, a tough competitor, extremely talented and friendly person. She will be missed by many.”