51-year-old man dies while competing in triathlon in Ponte Vedra Beach

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Action News Jax has learned a 51-year-old man died while competing in the Game On! triathlon in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Just before 8 p.m. Sunday night, the event’s organizer, Game On! Race Events, told us the triathlete experienced a medical emergency during the swim portion of the event.

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Action News Jax Dani Bozzini spoke with another participant of the race.

Melissa Lee explains, “I don’t really know how anyone could have trained for today, like the best swimmers, you can’t really replicate that.”

Lee recounts her first-ever sprint triathlon Sunday morning.

“I was a little nervous for an ocean swim because we have been training for eight weeks in a pool.”

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She says all that training could not have prepared her for Sunday morning’s water conditions.

“We estimated about three-to-four-foot swells, which is pretty big for swimming. They were coming very quickly, so it’s not like you had a long break in between them, maybe every four to five seconds. There was a very strong undercurrent as well.”

During that swim portion, a 51-year-old triathlete experienced a medical emergency in the water, according to the organizer.

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Game On! sent us this statement:

“It is with great sorrow that Game On! Race Events confirms a critical incident during the Ponte Vedra Beach sprint distance triathlon this morning. A 51-year-old male triathlete experienced a medical emergency during the swim portion of the event. The athlete received immediate medical attention and was transported to the hospital. The sport of triathlon lost a member of our beloved community today. We share our deepest condolences with his family and friends and respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

While Lee was finishing the swim, she says she saw a man receiving CPR on the shore.

“It was definitely very scary to see something like that.”

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Our First Alert Weather team says they forecasted a moderate rip current risk all day Sunday.

It was low tide at 5 a.m. Our meteorologists say rip currents often occur at low tide. Lee says the swim portion was definitely the most nerve-wrecking part.

“You couldn’t really comprehend the power in the water until you actually got in it.”

Lee says there were lifeguards on duty. We reached out to the organizer to see how many were on the beach during the swim portion. We are still awaiting a response.