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World swimming champion dies

26-year-old Oen suffered heart attack during an altitude camp

  • Reuters
  • Published: 00:01 May 2, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • Alexander Dale Oen

Oslo: Norwegian world champion swimmer Alexander Dale Oen has died of a suspected heart attack in Arizona at the age of 26, the Norwegian Olympic Committee said on Tuesday.

The 2011 world 100 metres breaststroke champion and one of Norway's best hopes for a medal at this year's London Olympics was attending an altitude training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona.

His teammates became worried when they noticed he had spent a long time in the shower on Monday evening and Oen did not react when they called out and knocked on the door. When they got into the bathroom, they found him lying half-in and half-out of the bath tub.

Ola Ronsen, doctor to Norway's elite Olympians, was quickly on the scene and an ambulance arrived shortly afterwards, but despite their best efforts to revive him, Oen was pronounced dead at 2100 local time.

"This is incredibly sad and tragic," Ronsen said. "As a doctor, it is painful experience not to succeed with resuscitation.

"Everything was done according to procedure, and everything was tried, so it's infinitely sad that we were unable to revive him."

Born in Oygarden in south-western Norway, Oen's career was ground-breaking for Norwegian swimming, and his bronze medal at the 2006 short course championships was the first for a Norwegian man in a world event.

He also won his country's first Olympic swimming medal when he took silver in the 100m breaststroke in Beijing in 2008, but it was at the 2011 world championships that he became a real national hero to the Norwegian people.

In shock

As he prepared for the 100m breaststroke competition in Shanghai, Oen's nordic homeland was rocked by the massacre of 77 people by far right fanatic Anders Behring Breivik.

The country was thrown into shock and Oen struggled with his emotions in the aftermath of the attacks, touching the Norwegian flag on his swimming cap every time he entered the pool deck.

Three days later, he swam to victory in the 100m breaststroke final and dedicated his triumph to the Norwegian people. "We need to let everyday life come back because we cannot get things ruined," he told reporters after the race.

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