Two-time world snowboarding champion Alex “Chumpy” Pullin died on Wednesday aged 32, reportedly while spearfishing off the Australian coast, Olympic officials said.
Pullin, who was the Australian team flag bearer at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, was found unresponsive on the ocean floor while spearfishing on the Gold Coast in Queensland, apparently after losing consciousness, local press reports said.
“This is an incredibly sad day for us all,” said Ian Chesterman, the Australian chef de mission at the Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014) and Pyeongchang (2018) Winter Olympics, where Pullin competed.
“Chumpy was a champion bloke as well as being a champion athlete. He had great charisma that allowed him to be a natural leader.
“He was always prepared to give his time to build winter sport in this country because he was so passionate about what he did. His enthusiasm was infectious and his impact on Olympic sport can’t be overstated.”
Pullin twice won world championship gold in the snowboard cross and took part in three winter Olympics, with sixth in Pyeongchang his best result.
Olympic Winter Institute of Australia chief Geoff Lipshut called him “Australia’s great snowboard male pioneer”.
Along with his love of the snow, Pullin was a keen spearfisherman and diving enthusiast.
A fortnight ago, he posted a picture of himself spearfishing on Instagram.
“Unreal day in the ocean!,” he said. “Whales singing & breaching all around us, hanging with great people, plus bringing home plenty of fish for the week.”