SYDNEY • Two-time world champion snowboarder Alex Pullin drowned while spearfishing off a Gold Coast beach yesterday, plunging Australia's winter sports community into mourning.
The 32-year-old, Australia's flagbearer at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, was found unconscious by a snorkeller on an artificial reef in waters off Palm Beach, state broadcaster ABC reported.
Lifeguards and paramedics attempted to resuscitate him on the beach after pulling him from the sea, but he could not be revived.
Gold Coast Police district duty officer Chris Tritton told broadcaster Channel Nine: "He didn't have an oxygen mask, we understand he was free diving and spearfishing out on the reef.
"It appears he was diving alone. There were other divers out there but he was not with a friend."
Brisbane-based newspaper The Courier-Mail said that Pullin was thought to have "suffered a shallow water blackout".
Pullin, who was also known by his nickname "Chumpy", won world championship titles in snowboard cross in 2011 and 2013, competed at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and was sixth in that event at the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea two years ago.
"It is an incredibly sad day," Geoff Lipshut, the chief executive of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia, said.
"Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin was one of our great winter sports pioneers... He attacked every day with intensity and purpose."
Lipshut also revealed Pullin had retired last month but had yet to announce the news.
The New South Wales Institute of Sport tweeted its condolences, saying: "Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin was an extraordinary individual who pursued his passions in sport and in life. This loss is tragic to everyone he inspired and loved."
Ian Chesterman, the Australian chef de mission at the Vancouver, Sochi and Pyeongchang Olympics, added: "Chumpy was a champion bloke as well as being a champion athlete. He had great charisma that allowed him to be a natural leader.
"His enthusiasm was infectious and his impact on Olympic sport can't be overstated."
Pullin was also keen spearfisherman and diving enthusiast.
A fortnight ago, he posted a picture of himself spearfishing on Instagram, with the caption: "Unreal day in the ocean. Whales singing and breaching all around, hanging with great people, bringing home plenty of fish for the week."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS