World Champ Alexander Dale Oen Dies at 26

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.

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10 years ago

If he wasn’t feeling well then it is quite possibly dehydration, but athletes who take EPO do not necessarily die during training, they can die in their sleep when their heart cannot pump the thickened blood, which is why they wear heart rate monitors to bed. Sometimes the alarm doesn’t work. But the question has to be asked after so many professional athletes in their 20’s are suffering heart attacks (EPL Muamba). They are constantly monitored and something like cardiomyopathy, which is genetic, would have been picked up quite early I would suspect with all the testing that is done. So I think the issue of unnatural causes should be kept alive and investigated out of respect for the family.… Read more »

10 years ago

Oh my. My dad (who has literally no connection with the swimming community, aside from me) mentioned that a 26 year old swimmer died today, never would I have ever guessed it was such a prominent one and in such an unexpected way. This’s heartbreaking.

10 years ago

I apologize, that’s not what I was implying at all,I did not mean to offend some people.
I was merely highlighting my concern about what the cause was,because their is a vast increase in supplement use by athletes of all ages,such as pre-workouts, vaso-dilators etc and no one really knows what the long term effects are and the effects are combined with medication etc..and its alarming because young athletes could be putting themselves at risk by using supplements.

RIP Alex,you were a phenomenal athlete. My prayers and thoughts go to your family,friends and teammates.

God bless!

Swim Ma
10 years ago

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and teammates.

10 years ago

Considering he was from Norway in Flagstaff Arizona on a training trip….They had been training in the pool twice a day and had played golf, I think it was a result of dehydration…
Have lived in Florida for 30 years and it is humid here and you sweat.Not so in Arizona…the dry heat makes it even harder to realize you are dehydrating…I still have to remind myself and my children to drink, drink, drink fluids…Dehydration sneaks up on you…rapid heart rate, stomach cramps,leads to fuzzy thinking and irregular heart beat and worse.Often times people think it is something they have eaten that has them feeling ill or dizzy….truth is they need FLUIDS…..People die all the time as a result… Read more »

10 years ago

Its is very tragic,and my condolences to the family.,an amazing athlete. However to die at the age of 26 from a heart attack is very rare and unbelievable specially at such a level of fitness. Its rather disturbing that this is the third professional athlete in the sporting world this year to to suffer a heart attack at such a young age which makes one ask the question is it caused by taking supplements or medication or banned substances. Usually athletes who have died at this age of a heart attack is the result of EPO use,which can cause a sudden fatal heart attack due to thickening of the blood which causes clots. One of the main causes for deaths… Read more »

Reply to  AshO
10 years ago

I’m rather disgusted at the drug comments. There have been a number of sudden athlete deaths over the years long before EPO was a question. Flo Hyman and Hank Gathers, who died on court from Marfan’s syndrome come to mind.

And Dana Vollmer spent a few years with a heart defibrillator at poolside when she was misdiagnosed with Long QT syndrome, which can also cause sudden death. (Her problem ended up being resolved, IIRC, by a different heart procedure.)

Reply to  AshO
10 years ago

HEY A******


100% callus and irresponsible to make disparaging remarks directed at Alex based on nothing but ignorance and pure speculation. EPO is used by endurance athletes and deaths occur during strenuous exercise when the heart can’t pump the thickened blood.

Dehydration is deadly. It can cause severe electrolyte imbalances that directly adversely affect heart function. A friend of mine suffered heart failure in her 20’s because of dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance and she hadn’t been exercising. (Thankfully, she survived.) Flagstaff is extremely dry and staying adequately hydrated is a challenge in that environment. Dehydration is a very plausible cause.

Of course, this is just speculation too.

Show some respect. This above all is a time… Read more »

Allen Jurovich
Reply to  fluidg
10 years ago

I don’t think he was accusing anyone of taking banned substances (EPO or anything else), he was only postulating a question that need be asked. For someone of his age and physical fitness level, what caused his death?

There are many causes for cardiac arrest (steroids weaken heart muscle, enlarged heart as opposed to athletes heart, irregular heart beat, cocaine or heroin overdose) and obviously these questions will probably not be answered. I am not saying that he did steroids, cocaine, or heroin.

Reply to  Allen Jurovich
10 years ago

that is what autopsies are for…great guy…and i know several nonathletes who have died of degenerative heart ailments. athletes just get more publicity
RIP Alex

Reply to  fluidg
10 years ago

Dehydration is a possibility.And is sometimes, a silent death.And everyone talking about fitness of an athlete, but forgets they are(looks) great outside, we never know about it what happens in their personal lives and genetic inheritance.Everything you do in excess(even food and water), have a price.Every swimmer dies a bit day-by-day, because their training.

My BEST wishes for his family.

R.I.P. Alexander Dale Oen

Reply to  DDias
10 years ago

“Every swimmer dies a bit day-by-day, because their training.”

Please explain this comment.

Reply to  AshO
10 years ago

Asho said:
“Usually athletes who have died at this age of a heart attack is the result of EPO use,which can cause a sudden fatal heart attack due to thickening of the blood which causes clots.”


The NYT just wrote about this yesterday,citing a recent study from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

From the article:

“Sudden cardiac arrest in a young person usually stems from a structural defect in the heart or a problem with its electrical circuitry. The most frequent cause, accounting for about 40 percent of all cases, is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, a thickening of the heart muscle.”

10 years ago

Nothing short of awful. What an outstanding young athlete and man, One would hope his influence and inspiration to his countrymen and women will continue on. I never met the man, but with my heritage in Norway, there was a real sense of pride knowing the country had someone in the pool to rally around. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and teammates. Rest in Peace, Alexander Dale Oen..

Mike Schmidt
10 years ago

Oh my Lord that is so tragic. My prayers go out to his family, friends, and the people of Norway. Unbelievable.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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