Camille Muffat: French Olympic gold medallist had gone on reality TV show for more 'exciting' challenge before Argentina helicopter crash

'I don’t want people to remember me just as a girl in swimming cap'

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The Independent Online

For London gold medallist Camille Muffat, reality TV was the start of a new life away from the “tedium”“of swimming.

The 2012 400 metres freestyle Olympic champion refused to be called a 24-year-old “retiree” when she announced that she was quitting the sport last year.

“I don’t think that I am at the end of my life. Quite the opposite,” she said. “Swimming is hardly the most exciting sport in the world.” Tragically, Camille’s new adventure ended in a double helicopter crash while filming in the Andes foothills in Argentina on Monday night.

France was plunged into mourning yesterday for the three sports stars and five members of a TV production team who were killed in the accident. Although not big names to the rest of the world, all the sports personalities were well-known and admired in France.

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Men work amid the wreckage of two helicopters which collided mid-air near Villa Castelli

Camille Muffat, 25, was part of an all-conquering generation of young French swimmers, many of whom belonged like her to the Nice club on the Mediterranean coast.

Florence Arthaud, 57, broke the male stranglehold on ocean yacht-racing, which is an enormously popular sport with the French public. When she became the first woman to win the Route du Rhum transatlantic race in 1990, she was nicknamed the “girlfiriend of the Atlantic” by the French press.

Alexis Vastine, 28, from Normandy, won a boxing bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He was widely believed by the French press to have been cheated out of gold medal bouts by bad refereeing decisions in both Beijing and London.

 

He admitted publicly that he had plunged into a depression after his London defeat but he had recovered to plan a new assault on Olympic gold next year.

Camille Muffat had told friends that the TV reality series Dropped was just what she needed to start a new life.

“I don’t want people to remember me just as a girl in swimming cap and goggles,” she said.

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Selfie shot posted on Facebook shows contestants for the tragedy hit French TV reality show "Dropped" seen here on the flight to Argentina from France: Olympians Camille Muffat (L) Florence Arthaud (C) and Alexis Vastine (R)

Her former trainer, Fabrice Pellerin, said today: “I feel as if I have lost a member of my own family. It’s hard to believe that this could have happened to Camille of all people. I always thought of her as unsinkable.”

The French yachtsman Olivier de Kersauson said Florence Arthaud was like a “character in a novel”, a seemingly fragile woman who overcame illness and raging storms to conquer the Atlantic. “Florence was anything but a fake,” he said. “She was an extraordinarily talented sailor”.

The WBA lightweight world boxing champion Julien Lorcy said: “Alexis Vistine came from a family of boxers. His brother was champion of France. His sisters also boxed.”

“He was a great champion but he was also a super guy, a great patriot and someone who worked hard and enjoyed the good things in life.”

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