Norwegian swimmer Alexander Dale Oen died suddenly on Tuesday from cardiac arrest during a pre-Olympic training camp in Flagstaff, Ariz. at the age of 26.
According to The Associated Press, Dale Oen, one of Norway's biggest medal hopes for the London Olympics, was found collapsed on his bathroom floor late Monday and was pronounced dead shortly afterward at Flagstaff Medical Center. It is still unclear what actually led to the cardiac arrest.
Dale Oen pumps his fist after winning the men's 100m breaststroke final at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China on July 25, 2011. (Reuters/Christinne Muschi)
We're all in shock, said Norway coach Petter Loevberg in a statement released by the Norwegian swimming federation. This is an out-of-the-body experience for the whole team over here. Our thoughts primarily go to his family who has lost Alexander way too early.
Dale Oen became a symbol of resilience and resurgence in Norway after his victory in the 100-meter breaststroke at last year's World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, China, which took place just three days after right-wing extremist Anders Breivik went on a bombing and shooting spree, killing 77 people. The swimmer also dedicated his win to victims of the massacre, responding to the Oslo attacks.
We need to stay united, he said after the race. Everyone back home now is of course paralyzed with what happened, but it was important for me to symbolize that even though I'm here in China, I'm able to feel the same emotions.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter that Alexander Dale Oen was a great sportsman for a small country. My thoughts go to his family and friends.
The federation said that Dale Oen had only gone through a light training session and played some golf on Monday. However, teammates became worried when the swimmer spent an unusually long time in the shower. Then, when they entered his bathroom after he took too long to respond to their door knocks, they found Dale Oen lying partly on the floor and partly on the edge of his bathtub.
Dale Oen said he was looking forward to going back home in his last tweet on Monday: 2 days left of our camp up here in Flagstaff, then it's back to the most beautiful city in Norway.. #Bergen.
The swimmer was considered the leading challenger to Japanese swimming star Kosuke Kitajima, who some believe will accomplish his third straight sweep of the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke events in London.
In shock over the passing of a dear friend and great rival. RIP Alex, Kitajima tweeted.
Cornel Marculescu, the executive director of FINA, the world governing body of swimming, said Tuesday that the organization planned to honor Dale Oen.
We will figure something out, because he was a great champion, Marculescu said. We have to find out more details about what happened first.
Here are 7 things to know about Dale Oen:
- Dale Oen was born in Bergen, Norway's second largest city, on May 21, 1985
- He was the second son of Mona Lillian Dale and Ingolf Oen
- He started swimming at age four
- He won silver at the 2008 Summer Olympics in the 100-meter breaststroke, earning Norway's first ever Olympic medal in swimming
- His victory in the 100-meter breaststroke at last year's World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, China was Norway's first gold medal at a World Championship in swimming
- He is the second high-profile athlete to die from cardiac arrest recently, after Italian soccer player Piermario Morosini collapsed on the field during a Serie B game for Livorno last month
- He is the second prominent swimmer to die in less than two years, after American open-water star Fran Crippen died during an October 2010 race in the United Arab Emirates from drowning and heat exhaustion