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Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin, Olympian, world champion snowboarder, drowns in spearfishing accident

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Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, an Olympian and world champion snowboarder, drowned while spearfishing on Australia’s Gold Coast on Wednesday.

A police spokesperson said a 32-year-old man, later identified as Pullin, was unresponsive when taken from the water and died despite receiving CPR from lifeguards and emergency treatment from paramedics.

The accident happened at Palm Beach around 10:40 a.m. local time. Pullin had been diving on an artificial reef when he was found by a snorkeler.

“Another diver was out there and located him on the sea floor and raised the attention of nearby surfers who sought lifeguards to bring him in,” police said. “He didn’t have an oxygen mask. We understand he was free diving and spearfishing out on the reef.”

Pullin competed in Olympic snowboard cross in 2010, 2014 and 2018 with a best finish of sixth. He won back-to-back world titles in 2011 and 2013. He carried Australia’s flag at the Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2014.

“We are all in shock today as one of the most beloved members of our close snow sport community, Chumpy, has sadly lost his life in what appears to be a tragic accident,” Snow Australia CEO Michael Kennedy said in a statement. “He was a mentor to so many of our younger snowboarders, giving up his time to coach and provide advice to our future Olympians. His loss will be felt right across our community.

“We know it won’t just be here in Australia that Chumpy’s legacy will be remembered, but throughout the international snowboarding community. It wasn’t just his ability to deliver results that will be missed, but his leadership and the path that he laid for so many.”

His parents owned a ski and snowboard shop in the Australian Alps, where Pullin began riding at age 8. Older friends gave him the nickname “Chumpy,” and it stuck.

Pullin, who spent time as a frontman for the surf-reggae band love Charli, often brought a guitar with him while traveling for competitions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Who is Australia’s greatest Olympian?

Cathy Freeman
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Australia has competed at every Summer Olympics and is best known for its swimmers, racking up 192 medals, nearly three times as many as its next-best sport, track and field. Despite ranking outside the world top 50 in population, it is eighth in all-time Summer Olympic medals. Australia is also the only nation in the Southern Hemisphere to earn a Winter Olympic gold medal, though this list is made up entirely of Summer Olympians …

Betty Cuthbert
Track and Field
Four Olympic Gold Medals

The only person to win Olympic titles in the 100m, 200m and 400m. Even more impressive, Cuthbert did it in a span of three Olympics from 1956-64. At age 18, she had bought tickets to attend the 1956 Melbourne Games, doubting she would qualify to compete. Not only did she make the team, she swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m, earning the nickname “Golden Girl.” Cuthbert was slowed by a hamstring injury at the 1960 Rome Games, missing the medals. She returned 1964 to compete in one event, the Olympic debut of the women’s 400m, and earned another gold.

Dawn Fraser
Swimming
Four Olympic Gold Medals

Fraser’s medal haul — four golds, four silvers — would have been greater had the Olympic swimming program included the 50m and 200m freestyles in the 1950s and ’60s. Even so, she broke 27 individual world records in her career, according to Olympedia.org. She was so famous in Australia that a daffodil, rose and an orchid were named after her. Fraser’s Olympic career ended with the 1964 Tokyo Games, for she was suspended 10 years for her actions there. The alleged misconduct: Fraser marching in the Opening Ceremony (against Australia’s federation’s wishes as swimmers usually sit out before competing through the first week), wearing a swimsuit that wasn’t official team apparel and attempting to take an Olympic Flag from outside the Japanese emperor’s palace. The ban was reportedly stopped before the 1968 Olympics, but too late for her to race at a fourth Games.

Cathy Freeman
Track and Field
2000 Olympic 400m champion, cauldron lighter

Freeman’s significance goes beyond her gold medal. She was named Australian of the Year in 1998, two years before lighting the cauldron at the Sydney Olympic Opening Ceremony, a defining moment for her nation’s indigenous Aboriginal people. Ten days later, she lined up for the 400m final in front of 112,524 fans at Stadium Australia and 10 million more Australians on TV (more than half the population). In a green-and-white hooded speedsuit, she prevailed under unimaginable pressure. “Relief,” she said. “It was just relief. It was totally overwhelming because I could feel the crowd all around me, all over me.”

Rechelle Hawkes
Field Hockey
Three Olympic Gold Medals (2000)

The only woman with three Olympic field hockey gold medals. Hawkes debuted with the national team in 1985, the year she turned 18, captained the team from 1993-2000 (when they won every international event save one) and played 279 games for the Hockeyroos through her last Olympics in 2000.

Ian Thorpe
Swimming
Five Olympic Gold Medals

The Thorpedo was one of Australia’s most famous people when the nation was the world’s focus during the 2000 Sydney Games. At 17, he earned three gold medals and two silvers. He was the world’s best swimmer, though surpassed by Michael Phelps by the end of 2003. Still, Thorpe held four world records going into the 2004 Athens Games (200m and 400m freestyles, 4x100m and 4x200m free relays). He won the 200m and 400m frees in Athens, the former over Phelps and Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband dubbed the Race of the Century. Thorpe bowed out from major international competition at age 21, announcing his retirement two years later, citing a lack of desire.

James Tomkins
Rowing (2008)
Three Olympic Gold Medals

A gold medalist at three different Games. A world champion in all five sweep events. His global titles spanned from 1986 to 2004. Tomkins, during his rowing career, also earned a degree in economics and finance, surfed and worked for Bankers Trust, a large bank in Australia.

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Rohan Dennis reflects on time trial, weighs Tour de France, gold medals

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For Rohan Dennis, the world’s best time trial cyclist, the last year included the most difficult two months of his life, the best moment of his career and a move to the world’s dominant team. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, postponing his Olympic plan by a year.

Dennis discussed all of it with NBC Sports cycling host Paul Burmeister for a watchback of his 2019 World time trial title, airing on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA on June 24 at 8 p.m. ET.

Olympic Channel’s World Championships Week features the 2019 World Road Cycling Championships beginning Monday. Dennis and Americans Chloe Dygert and Lawson Craddock join the special edition broadcasts to offer insights.

In the time trial, the Australian Dennis repeated as world champ in his first race since quitting the Tour de France the day before that Grand Tour’s time trial without explanation. He later cited a situation with his then-team, Bahrain-Merida, that affected his home life.

“It was probably the toughest eight, 10 weeks of my life,” Dennis said of the time between leaving the Tour on July 18 and leading up to the Sept. 25 time trial at worlds in Great Britain. “There was a lot of mental sort of battles within my own head each day thinking about obviously the Tour de France departure and everything.”

Dennis said he bounced between training a mile high in Andorra and at sea level in Girona, Spain.

“To keep things a little bit fresh because I was pulled out of all my races,” said Dennis, whose psychologist lived with him during that time. “I knew if I stayed in one place, it was going to play mind games with myself the whole time.”

Dennis’ training for worlds went so well that he believed a podium was guaranteed. Dennis dominated, distancing 19-year-old Belgian Remco Evenepoel by 68 seconds on a 33-mile course.

“It’s been a lot tougher than what it looked out there,” Dennis said that day, when he was surprised to be greeted by wife Melissa and baby son Oliver in the finish area. “It was absolutely perfect today.”

Now, Dennis calls it the best moment of a career that included time trial wins at all three Grand Tours, holding the hour record for two months in 2015 and a 2012 Olympic team pursuit silver medal and a pair of world titles in that discipline on the track.

Later last autumn, Dennis signed with Team Ineos, joining an already star studded roster that includes the last three Tour de France winners — Chris FroomeGeraint Thomas and Egan Bernal. He’s confident the team will have no leadership problems for the rescheduled Tour de France that starts Aug. 29.

“They’ve had this same situation more than once before,” Dennis said, citing Bradley Wiggins and Froome racing together in 2012, Thomas and Froome in 2018 and Bernal and Thomas in 2019. “The leadership works itself out. … The team always puts that goal first, so they really stamp out anything that can destroy the team winning. It’s not an individual who wins, even though it technically is. The goal is that Team Ineos has a rider on the top step of that podium in Paris. It doesn’t actually matter who it is.”

That rider will not be Dennis, whose focus is on the world championships time trial in Switzerland that falls on the same date as the last day of the Tour (Sept. 20). Dennis is “90 to 95 percent sure” he will not start the Tour de France this year. Next year’s Tour de France runs into the start of the Tokyo Olympics, so Dennis admits he could miss that Grand Tour, too.

“[A Tour de France] is something I want to do with the team,” said Dennis, who hopes to become the first Australian man to win an Olympic road cycling title. “It also is not a given that you’re in the team if you put your hand up for it on this team. It’s probably the hardest team to get into.”

MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

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