Alexander Dale Oen, a world champion swimmer from Norway, died during team training in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Monday. He was 26. The president of the Norwegian Swimming Federation, Per Rune Eknes, told the AP that Dale Oen died after suffering a cardiac arrest.
"We're all in shock," Norway coach Petter Loevberg said. "This is an out-of-the-body experience for the whole team over here. Our thoughts primarily go to his family who have lost Alexander way too early."
Dale Oen took gold at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, winning the 100m breaststroke. It was Norway's first gold medal at a World Championship in swimming, and the win came just three days after the massacre in Norway that claimed the lives of 77 people. Dale Oen pointed to the Norwegian flag on his swim cap after the race and dedicated the win to the massacre victims, saying at the time, "We need to stay united."
Dale Oen was expected to be one of the country's best chances at a medal in the 2012 Summer Games in London. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, he took silver in the 100m breaststroke.
Dale Oen was reportedly found in the bathroom at the training center in Flagstaff, where the Norwegian team is holding a camp to prepare for London. The team said he had a light swim Monday, and then played some golf, but they became worried when Dale Oen took longer than usual to shower. The federation said "they found Dale Oen laying partly on the floor, partly on the edge of his bathtub."
Team doctor Ola Roensen began performing CPR until an ambulance arrived.
"Everything was done according to procedure, and we tried everything, so it is immensely sad that we were not able to resuscitate him," Roensen said. "It is hard to accept."
The news is being felt particularly hard in his home country, prompting Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to tweet, "Alexander Dale Oen was a great athlete for a small country. My thoughts are with his family and friends."