This morning, we awoke to the tragic news that Norwegian breaststroker Alexander Dale Oen passed away last night at 26 while at a training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona after falling into cardiac arrest, according to Federation President Per Rune Eknes.
According to the Associated Press, Norwegian coach Petter Loevberg said”We’re all in shock. 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 at last year’s World Championships was viewed as one of the best performances of all time; under difficult circumstances, Dale Oen stepped onto the blocks in Shanghai and swam his way to a World Championship in the 100 breast, and a textile-best time of 58.71. He was expected to chase the World Record this summer, and finish at least as high as his 100 breaststroke silver medal from the 2008 Olympics.
The coaching staff of Norway reports that it was a light day of training, followed by a golfing session, and that his teammates broke into the bathroom after he failed to respond while showering to find him slumped over the edge of the tub. (UPDATE) Word from swimmers in Flagstaff is that Dale Oen was not feeling well and went to take a shower before bed. Though no official cause for the cardiac arrest has been released, his teammates have said that he may have been dehydrated at the time.
Swimmers at every level and from every corner of the globe have poured out their condolences over the passing; friends and competitors,;fans and admirers; even reaching across well-drawn lines in the sand with suit brands like Speedo sending out messages of respect for the Arena-sponsored athlete.
Athletes in nearly every swimming country have reflected on not only what an incredible athlete and swimmer Dale Oen was, but what a spectacular person he was. He will always be remembered for providing swimming with one of its iconic moments last summer. Just days after his country was ravaged by the rampage of Anders Breivik that killed 77 people, including many children, Dale Oen stepped up onto the blocks and dominated the competition in his best event. That was a day where we were all fans of Norwegian swimming.
After each swim, Dale Oen tapped the flag on his cap to remind his country that his thoughts were with them, and that someway somehow they would recover from the tragedy.
It’s times like these that we learn about the tightness of our swimming community. The feelings are reminiscent to that fateful Saturday when we first heard of the death of American Fran Crippen in a race in the UAE. You search for someone to tell, but most of the people you are searching for just don’t understand. They don’t feel the connection that we, as swimming fans, feel for having lost someone who we’ve all dedicated so much emotion to watching swim. It’s a terrible feeling, and one that seems to overcome us far too often. For swimming fans, May 1st joins those days where we will all remember where we were when we heard.