Olympic gold medalist Camille Muffat had retired from swimming to focus on her personal life, boxer Alexis Vastine had some unfinished business after two disappointing Olympics, and the beloved sailor Florence Arthaud was a pioneer for women in her sport.
The three athletes were among 10 people who died as two helicopters filming a European reality show crashed in a remote part of Argentina on Monday.
French sports daily L'Equipe's website carried a picture of Muffat holding her Olympic gold medal along with the words "French Sport in Mourning."
French President Francois Hollande spoke of his "immense sadness," while some of the country's best-known athletes offered their condolences.
The helicopters apparently collided in midair near Villa Castelli in La Rioja province, about 730 miles (1,170 kilometers) northwest of Buenos Aires.