02:39 - Source: CNN
France mourns Olympians killed in helicopter crash

Story highlights

Florence Arthaud was one of 10 people killed in helicopter crash

Arthaud was a champion sailor, winning the 1997 Transpacific race across the Pacific Ocean and the Route du Rhum in 1990

"Brave and brilliant, nothing was impossible" said Shirley Robertson in tribute to the sailor

Olympic athletes Camille Muffat and Alexis Vastine were also killed in the crash

Follow us at @CNNSport and like us on Facebook

CNN  — 

One of 10 people killed in the collision of two helicopters in Argentina, France’s Florence Arthaud has been described as a “national treasure” by fellow sailor Shirley Robertson.

“Florence held the hearts of her nation when she won the Route de Rhum in 1990 – a crazy sprint across the Atlantic, alone in very fast boats, an event watched live across the country with millions coming to see their heroes set off,” Mainsail presenter Robertson told CNN.

Along with Camille Muffat and Alexis Vastine, the 57-year-old Arthaud was one of three sports stars killed in the collision as two helicopters transported the athletes to a gorge in northwestern Argentina to film the reality TV show “Dropped” for French broadcaster TF1.

According to Robertson, Arthaud had inspired a generation of French sailors.

“Brave and brilliant, nothing was impossible,” added Robertson of Arthaud. “A true role model to the yachtswomen who would follow, she led the way.

“Her sense of adventure continued and she was well known for her TV documentaries bringing the power and passion of the sea into the living rooms of her adoring public. The nation will mourn this heroine’s loss.”

Known as the “little girl of the Atlantic,” Arthaud was the daughter of Jacques Arthaud, the director of the Arthaud publishing house.

“A true character, she made her mark in the sport through her determination and showed to the whole world that sailing was not merely a sport for men; that women could now also take part in the adventure and succeed,” said the French Sailing Federation in a statement on its website.

Despite being left in a coma after a car accident at the age of 17, Arthaud crossed the Atlantic for the first time when she was 19, going on to win a number of races including the 1997 Transpacific race that traverses the Pacific Ocean.

The boat that she had sailed to win the Route du Rhum – Pierre 1er – also helped her establish a women’s singlehanded west to east transatlantic record, as Arthaud notched a time of nine days 22 hours and five minutes.

“Her death has moved the French sailing world,” added the French Sailing Federation. “All our thoughts are with her family and her loved ones.”

Boxer Vastine, 28, and swimmer Camille Muffat, 25, were also killed in the crash.

Top French athletes among 10 dead after 2 helicopters collide in Argentina

  • Vasitine won a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in the light welterweight division where he finished joint third.
  • Fought Great Britain’s Amir Khan at the 2004 junior world championships, losing by a knockout.
  • Competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games, narrowly missing out on the semifinals.
  • Muffat was a three-time Olympic medalist at London 2012, winning gold in the 400 meter freestyle; silver in the 200m freestyle; and bronze in the 4×200m freestyle relay.
  • Muffat became the third Frenchwoman (after Laure Manaudou and Micheline Ostermeyer) to win three medals at a summer or winter Olympic Games.
  • She broke the 800m freestyle world record in November 2012 with a time of eight minutes 1.06 seconds.
  • She was made a Knight (Chevalier) of the Legion d’honneur on 1 January 2013.
  • “Muffat was a talented swimmer and a human being of great value. She was and will remain a role model for the youth in France and a true inspiration for all those aiming at becoming successful swimmers”, said FINA president Dr. Julio C. Maglione.