Team Great Britain snowboarder and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics hopeful Ellie Soutter is feared to have taken her own life on her 18th birthday in France.
Ellie Soutter died on Wednesday, with her heartbroken dad Tony paying an emotional tribute to her on Facebook.
Sources within the sport confirmed to The Sun that Ellie took her own life in France.
The family has not confirmed how the 18-year-old died but British Ski and Snowboard, the governing body of the sport in the UK, posted a link to Samaritans — a suicide prevention charity in the UK — when announcing news of her death.
Her 53-year-old dad, who moved with Ellie to France in 2010, told friends he had lost his “soul mate,” writing on social media: “This cruel world took my Soul mate and ‘Bessie’ from me yesterday on her 18th birthday.”
“I was so proud of the beautiful young woman she had turned into.”
“Ellie I will miss you more than you could have ever imagined. Rest in peace you little Champion!”
Ellie was considered one of Team GB’s great hopes for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, having claimed Team GB’s only medal at the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in Erzurum, Turkey last year.
The teenager had been forced to stop competing at the beginning of this year due to a lack of funding but she was able to start again and was expected to compete in the junior world championships in New Zealand next month.
Devastated friends and family of the snowboarder flooded social media with tributes after news of her death was announced, organizing a memorial at the Hotel Spa Crychar in Les Gets, France on Friday night.
Pal Abi Rundle described Ellie as the “kindest, most caring, talented and beautiful friend.”
She wrote: “If only you knew how much you truly meant to everyone.”
“Not a day will go past where I don’t think about and miss you. Until we meet again my angel, forever in my heart, I love you.”
Oscar Mandin also shared a photograph of the pair together, simply writing: “Goodbye Ellie…” accompanied by a heart emoji.
British Ski Cross champion Emily Sarsfield added: “So sad to hear the news of the passing of Ellie Soutter.”
“You really were an amazing girl! Such a fun teammate, made me smile everyday, cracking all the jokes and enjoying life to it’s fullest! I’m going to miss you and your amazing energy. All my thoughts to your family.”
Olympic champion Amy Williams added: “Such sad tragic news to wake up to. Thoughts and prayers go to Ellie Soutter’s family.”
And friend Ryan Pelluchon added: “Every second spent with you was a pleasure: partying, riding or just chilling. I just wish I could of had more of it… Rest In Peace you champion.”
Team GM teammate Maisie Hill was among those paying tribute to Ellie, saying: “Have a good ride up there Ellie.”
Another described Ellie as a “little gem” as friends shared tributes marked with the motto #rideforellie.
Rising talent Ellie claimed Team GB’s only medal at the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in Erzurum, Turkey last year when she was just 16.
As she secured the bronze medal, she said: “I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet. I’m a little bit emotional. I cried as I crossed the line.”
She added: “I just hope this isn’t the last medal I win for Team GB. My goal is to compete at Beijing 2022.”
Ellie was an inaugural member of the British Europa Cup snowboard cross program, spending the 2017/18 season competing on the Freeride Junior Tour.
A specialist in freeride and boardercross, Ellie was due to return to snowboard cross competition, representing Britain at the Junior World Championships in New Zealand.
Her dad Tony had recently started a GoFundMe campaign asking for help with his daughter’s career, saying there was little or no financial assistance coming in for her sport.
In February, he wrote: “Ellie should now be in full swing with both the Europa Cup boardercross circuit and Junior Freeride World Tour, throughout Europe also training full time with her coach Deborah Anthonioz, racking up FIS points so she can move on to the World Cup circuit and gain selection to the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing.”
“Due to the lack of funds this has all had to come to a halt.”
He later thanked supporters for helping to raise cash that would go towards her summer training.
A Team GB spokesman said: “The British Olympic Association is saddened to hear of the sudden passing of snowboard cross athlete Ellie Soutter, aged 18.
“Ellie was an incredibly popular and well-liked member of the team.”
“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.”
British Ski & Snowboard issued an emotional statement last night describing her as among the “best” young boarders in the UK, sharing the Samaritans helpline details.
They said: “Ellie was one of the country’s best up-and-coming snowboarders, competing in both snowboard cross and freeride.”
“A bronze medallist in snowboard cross at the 2017 European Youth Olympic Winter Festival in Erzurum, Turkey, Ellie claimed Team GB’s only medal of the event.”
“She spent the 2017/18 season competing on the Freeride Junior Tour, but was due to return to snowboard cross competition next month after being selected in the British team for the Junior World Championships in New Zealand.”
“She was an inaugural member of the British Europa Cup snowboard cross program which commenced earlier this year.”
“The thoughts and condolences of the British Ski & Snowboard community are with Ellie’s family, friends and teammates.”
British Olympic Association Chair Hugh Robertson and BOA Athlete Commission Chair Ben Hawes said: “Ellie was an incredibly popular and well-liked member of the team.”
“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time”
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