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17yr old Tunisian 49erFX helm drowns in training accident in fresh winds

by Souhail Khmira/ 11 Apr 19:13 PDT 12 April 2022
Eya and Sarra Guezguez (TUN) clear the start line - competing in the 49erFX at Tokyo2020 - Enoshima - August 2021 © Richard Gladwell -

Sport Nation has reported, since confirmed, by the Tunisian Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee, that Tunisian 49erFX sailor Eya Guezguez tragically died, as a result of an on the water training accident, while practicing with her twin sister Sarra on Sunday.

The 17-year-old, who competed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at the age of 16, passed away following an accident where the 49erFX capsized, wrote Tunisian journalist Souhail Khmira.

Her sister, who sailed as crew for Eya survived the tragedy. They were amongst the youngest athletes to compete at Tokyo2020. The Guezguez sisters finished in 21st place in the 49er FX event, finishing only five of the 12 races, but were keen to return for Paris2024 and improve their August 2021 performance.

Guezguez was the youngest Tunisian at last year's Tokyo Olympics and competed in the women's 49er FX category with her twin sister Sarra, who is two minutes older. They qualified for the African continent Tokyo2020 place at the 2021 Mussanah Open, held in Oman.

The Tunisian Olympic Committee (CNOT) has described her death as "a tragedy in the sports scene" while the Tunisian Minister of Sports and Youth paid tribute to Guezguez and sent his condolences to her family.

Olympic debutants Eya and Sarra, both then aged 16, finished bottom of their event in 21st position in Tokyo.

"I am shocked by the news of sailor Eya Guezguez's death," International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said.

"She was an inspiring talent and role model for her athletes' generation.

"Eya Guezguez's participation at Tokyo 2020 alongside her twin sister Sarra will continue to motivate girls everywhere. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and the Olympic community in Tunisia."

CNOT's Facebook page said that rising star Guezguez died while training for upcoming regional and international competition.

The 49erFX was being sailed by Eya and Sarra capsized in fresh winds, with CNOT president Mehrez Boussayan telling local radio the sisters' coach was alongside them in a RIB at the time.

The coach reportedly managed to help Sarra flee the tangled rigging before then locating Eya, on whom he attempted CPR but in vain.

The young Olympian was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead after drowning.

The details surrounding the tragedy remain unclear, but some reports indicate the accident was a result of sailing in strong winds. Although well under the age limit for Youth Sailing Worlds, the two sisters did not compete in the 29er class in the 2021 event in Oman. The 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID Pandemic.

A second death occurred in the 49er class, in December 2021, when a 25yr old Indian sailor died after striking his head against the hull of the 49er. Army Yachting Node’s sailor Naveen Vashisht, lapsed into a coma for a week or so, and died at a private Mumbai hospital.

Vashisht's 49er boat had capsized on December 14 during the YAI Senior National Sailing Championships at the Girgaum Chowpatty beach.

The 25-year-old slipped and hit his head on the hull amid a sudden gust of wind. His co-sailor Vishal Singh was, however, safe.

An investigation has been launched into the Tunisian incident, which occurred a few hours before Muslims were due to break their fast on the ninth day of Ramadan.

World Sailing has responded to the tragic incident

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