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The three champions who 'made France shine'

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The three champions who 'made France shine'
09:02 CET+01:00
The world of French sport was plunged into deep shock and sadness on Tuesday after losing "three of its jewels" in a helicopter crash. Here's a look at the lives of the three sports stars who we'll never see competing again.

Three French sports stars were among the ten people left dead when two helicopters collided in Argentina. They were filming a reality TV programme - Dropped - when the crash occurred.

France's minister for sport Thierry Braillard said: "French sport is in mourning. We have lost three great champions".  

French president François Hollande said the three stars "had done so much to make France shine".

 

 

Here is a closer look at the lives of swimmer Camille Muffat, boxer Alexis Vastine, and sailor Florence Arthaud. 

Camille Muffat, 25, was a top swimmer at the London Olympics in 2012, winning the gold in the 400-metre freestyle with a new Olympic record.

(Olympic gold medalist Camille Muffat celebrates winning gold in London in 2012. AFP)

The Nice-born Frenchwoman also took home the silver for France in the 200-metre freestyle and finished third in the 4×200-metre freestyle relay.

French newspaper Le Parisien wrote on Tuesday that she was one of the "great champions of France" in the swimming pool. Indeed, the was only the third French woman to win three medals at a single Olympic games.

After she won the gold medal in 2012, she said "When you've won an Olympic gold medal then you've made it. Nothing else matters after that."

IN PICTURES: French helicopter crash kills 10

In 2013, she was made a knight of the Légion d'honneur.

The next year, in June, she retired from swimming, stating that she "wanted to be seen as more than just a pair of goggles and a swimming hat" and that she wanted to experience more of life without the fear of missing training. 

She is survived by her parents Guy and Laurence, and her siblings Quentin and Chloé.


(Photo: AFP)

Alexis Vastine, 28, won a bronze medal at the Beijing games in 2008 in the light welterweight category.

His death alone would have been tragic enough for his family, but in a cruel twist of fate, Alexis Vastine's younger sister Celie was killed in a car crash in January aged 21.

Like Muffat, he also competed at the 2012 Olympics in London, but was knocked out at the quarter final stage.

Losing at both Olympic contests somewhat controversially, French newspaper Le Parisien referred to the Frenchman on Monday as "a cursed boxer".

In London, Vastine drew on points in his final fight but lost after a count back against top-seeded welterweight Taras Shelestyuk. In Beijing, he lost his final fight after being handed two penalties that cost him enough points to lost a fight he had led.

Despite the unlucky finishes, his peers said that he hadn't given up. 

French world champion boxer Brahim Asloum said on Monday night that Vastine's dream was to be a gold medallist in Rio next year.


(Photo: AFP)

He added that Vastine had suffered hard after his controversial end to the London Olympics, and "hesitated to continue his career".
 
The Frenchman's family has boxing in its blood, with Vastine's father working as a trainer in Normany, and his siblings all excelling in the sport as well. 
 
Vastine had an illustrious career outside the Olympics, taking home four gold medals at world championships since 2008, and winning five gold medals at the French championships in his division. 
 
Florence Arthaud, 57, was considered one of the best sailors in the world, a woman who conquered what had been a strictly male-dominated sport. She was nicknamed "The Bride of the Atlantic".
 

(Photo: AFP)
 
Among her titles is the 1990 Route du Rhum, the most prestigious race to cross the Atlantic solo. The race, which is held every fourth November, took the Frenchwoman over 14 days and ten hours to complete. 
 
The competition's most recent winner is another French native, Loïck Peyron, who told French newspaper Le Parisien that "Everyone always knew of Florence's potential", adding that "us men were not upset to see her finish ahead of us".
 
Arthaud had one daughter from a relationship with another sailor Loïc Lingois.
 
The Frenchwoman had had a brush with death not long ago, after she fell overboard while sailing near Corsica in 2011. She was found alive after two hours at sea, thanks to the geolocation on her mobile phone.
 
She published an autobiography called Un vent de liberté ("A wind of freedom") in 2009. The preface of the book was penned by another famed French sailor Olivier de Kersauson, who noted that "all the sailors were in love" with Arthaud. 
 

(Photo: AFP)
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