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Profiles of French stars Muffat, Vastine and Arthaud

Camille Muffat, Alexis Vastine and Florence Arthaud Image copyright AFP
Image caption Camille Muffat, Alexis Vastine and Florence Arthaud died in a helicopter crash in Argentina on Monday

France is in mourning following the deaths of three of its sports stars in a helicopter crash in Argentina on Tuesday whilst filming a TV survival show.

Figures from around the sports world have been paying tribute to the athletes.

We profile swimmer Camille Muffat, Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine and yachtswoman Florence Arthaud.


Camille Muffat, 25

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Image caption Only three Frenchwomen have won three medals at one Olympics

Camille Muffat was regarded as French sporting royalty, one of its greatest swimmers in recent memory.

The former world record holder confirmed her superstar status with three medals at the London 2012 Olympics, including a thrilling 400m freestyle gold.

She added a silver medal in the 200m freestyle and a bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay, to become only the third Frenchwomen to win three medals in the same games.

Following these exploits, she was made a Knight (Chevalier) of the Legion d'Honneur, one of France's highest honours.

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Image caption After success at London 2012 she stunned the swimming world by retiring at just 24

She burst onto the scene in 2005, spectacularly beating the star of French swimming, Laure Manaudou, whilst only 15 at the French Swimming Championships.

In 2014, just two years after winning gold, she stunned the swimming world by deciding to retire at the age of just 24, citing fatigue from 10 years of elite performance.

Faced with another gruelling Olympic training cycle and ever-growing expectations she decided to step away from the sport: "I knew becoming an Olympic champion in 2016 would be 100 times more complicated."

Freed from the daily grind of training she threw herself into expanding her personal life, including agreeing to appear on the TV show Dropped, a decision that would ultimately lead to her death.

Her friend and agent, Sophie Kamoun, said that the show was just another way to bring her happiness:

"She had a lot of projects that made her happy, and this show was one of them. I spoke to her on the phone two days ago and she told me she'd spent a fabulous week, one of the best of her life."


Alexis Vastine, 28

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Image caption The pinnacle of Vastine's career was a 2008 Olympic bronze

Born into a boxing family, Alexis Vastine climbed the ranks of amateur boxing as an elegant welterweight.

Despite a career of some success, he always felt that ultimate glory was denied to him by unjust decisions in the ring. Never was this more evident than the night of his biggest success when he won a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In the final round of his quarter-final bout with Manuel Felix Diaz the referee docked the Frenchman points. Denied the prospect of gold, a devastated Vastine was reduced to tears on the canvas.

This would not be the only Olympics when he would weep in the ring. At London 2012 he was knocked out in the quarter-finals, again the victim - as he saw it - of unfair refereeing.

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Image caption Vastine was devastated after judging decisions dashed his hopes of a medal at the London Olympics

Distraught as the decision was announced, he late appealed but was unsuccessful.

"The original verdict was confirmed. Nightmare," he wrote on his Facebook page, "I'm distraught, shocked, stunned. Twice so blatantly, I could not imagine."

Not finished with the sport, he vowed to fulfil his dream of a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

These plans were shattered by the death of his sister Celie in a car accident in January 2015. He reportedly decided to appear on the TV show as a way of dealing with this loss.

At 28 and entering his prime, French boxing is left with the question: what if?


Florence Arthaud, 57

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Image caption In 1990 Arthaud was the first woman to win a solo transatlantic race

A pioneer in the sailing world, she was an outspoken boundary breaker for women in the sport - famed in France for her success but also for a living a life less ordinary, with a reputation as a maverick and adventurer.

She shot to fame in 1990 after becoming the first woman to win the Route du Rhum solo transatlantic race on her boat Pierre 1er.

She won the race despite remarkable obstacles in her path; overcoming a faulty radio and defective automatic pilot all whilst wearing a neck brace due to a slipped disc.

She also won plaudits for her sportsmanship, abandoning her hopes of winning the 1986 Route Du Rhum to go to the aid of a stricken rival.

Determined to go her own route, she made no apologies for her buccaneering lifestyle,: "I had my daughter when I was 36. I hadn't had a typically woman's life before that. I had a riotous and adventurous life."

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Image caption Arthaud was a pioneer for female sailors, often criticising sponsors for a lack of support

In 2010 she caused a national scandal after being arrested for drink-driving.

She was an outspoken critic of sexism, complaining bitterly last October about sponsors' unwillingness to support female sailors. She planned to set up an all-female event in Marseille.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, who in 2005 broke the world record to solo-circumnavigate the globe, paid the world paid tribute to Arthaud as one of her inspirations:

"I think she made a difference to sailing and Florence's view was that the sea is out there and it's there for the taking. You know, I'm sure she's inspired many, many people. There are actually a very small number, globally, who race big boats solo and she was one of that small number."

A daring competitor, Arthaud took risks in multiple crossings of the Atlantic, cheating death in 2011.

Sailing off the coast of Corsica she fell out of her boat in the middle of the night. Using a waterproof mobile phone she managed to call her mother to raise the alarm. She was pulled from the water by helicopter, suffering from hypothermia.

"I led an adventurer's life and burnt the candle at both ends" was her own fitting description of an extraordinary career.

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