Norwegian swimming champion Alexander Dale Oen, who collapsed at a training camp in Arizona in April, died of heart disease, according to a medical examiner’s statement released Tuesday.
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The Coconino County medical examiner’s office said the 26-year-old Dale Oen suffered from atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, which means Dale Oen would have had arterial blockages.
Kimbal Babcock, clinical services manager for the Coconino County Public Health Services District, said blockages prevent the heart from receiving blood.
Babcock said factors such as being elderly, having diabetes or living a sedentary lifestyle can lead to the condition. In Dale Oen’s case, the medical examiner recommended that the swimmer’s family look into whether there is a family history of heart disease, Babcock said.
Dale Oen was conducting pre-Olympic training April 30 in Flagstaff, Ariz., when he went into cardiac arrest. Teammates found him collapsed on his bathroom floor at a hotel. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward at Flagstaff Medical Center.
The swimmer became a national hero after winning the 100-meter breaststroke at last year’s world championships in Shanghai, just three days after 77 people were killed in a massacre in Norway by self-confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik.
Dale Oen dedicated that victory – the first world title for a Norwegian swimmer – to the victims of the tragedy, pointing to the Norwegian flag on his cap after the finish to send a message to his country. At the medals ceremony, he cried on the podium as the Norwegian national anthem was played.
Dale Oen was considered one of Norway’s biggest medal hopes at the London Olympics. He earned a silver medal in the 100 breaststroke at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.