GENEVA (AP) — World champion extreme snowboarder Estelle Balet was killed in an avalanche on Tuesday while making a film in her native Switzerland.
Police said the 21-year-old Swiss athlete was struck by the snow slide early in the morning above Orsieres, near Switzerland’s southern border with France and Italy.
She had been following another snowboarder, who was not caught in the avalanche.
Valais state police said in a statement that rescuers were able to free Balet, who had been wearing special safety equipment, but she died at the scene. An investigation into the cause has been launched.
Two days earlier, Balet had looked forward to her filming work in a message posted on her Instagram account.
“Pretty awesome to get to snowboard with this view.. Can’t wait for more filming next week !” she had written.
Balet recently won the Freeride World Tour for a second straight year racing as a member of watchmaker Swatch’s professional team.
The global series challenges snowboarders and skiers in extreme conditions on ungroomed snow, and is organized outside the Olympic system.
“Estelle Balet was a naturally gifted shining star and demonstrated remarkable talent,” the Freeride series said in a statement on its website.
“The Freeride community has experienced a tremendous loss today,” the statement said. “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Estelle Balet as we send our deepest sympathy and condolences during this very difficult time.”
But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.
She retired from her most recent match with a right thigh injury last week and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.
Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.
No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, are the best hopes to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seleswon the 1996 Australian Open.
But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.
Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.
Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.
Russian Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the French Open first round in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, is improved on clay. He won the Italian Open, the last top-level clay event before the French Open, and is the No. 2 seed ahead of Djokovic.
No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 12 Frances Tiafoe and No. 16 Tommy Paul are the highest-seeded Americans, all looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.