PARIS, France, October 22. FRENCH national swimming team director Christian Donze, one of the leaders of the Olympic squad that won seven medals, passed away Sunday after suffering a heart attack during a mountain bicycle race.
The Agence France-Press reported that Donze had been riding a race in southeastern France with his wife and son when he experienced the heart attack around 1 p.m. local time. He died after medical services were unable to revive him.
Shortly before competing in the Berlin stop of the FINA World Cup, Yannick Agnel posted the following on Twitter:
C'est avec une profonde tristesse que je viens d'apprendre le d?c?s de Christian… Toutes mes pens?es vont… fb.me/1DLHETkp8
— Yannick Agnel (@YannickAgnel) October 21, 2012
Translated into English, the tweet reads:
“It is with great sadness that I just learned of the death of Christian … All my thoughts go to his family, which I wholeheartedly support in this event. He was a great man, a kindness, professionalism and dedication unmatched. He died as he lived: with a love of sport.
Thank you for all that you were and all that you have built.
Rest in peace, Christian.”
The French swimming federation also released a statement:
“We have just learned with amazement the sudden loss of Christian Donze, National Technical Director, who suffered a heart attack. In these painful and unexpected circumstances, the President of the Federation and the entire French Swimming together wish to address Christian's family its deepest condolences and assure them of our support.”
Donze was a past French national champion in the 200 butterfly and became technical director in January 2009. After his appointment, France slowly rose to prominence on the international swimming stage, including 21 medals at the 2010 European Championships, where Camille Lacourt had approached Aaron Peirsol's world record in the 100 backstroke. The 2011 world championships and the 2012 Olympics featured France higher on the medal count than in previous installments.
Donze was scheduled to give a speech at next week's FINA World Aquatics Convention in Moscow, where he was set to talk about the philosophies that he implemented to get swimmers and coaches in France in line with the goal of winning Olympic medals.