Norwegian marathon great Waitz dies at 57

OSLO Tue Apr 19, 2011 10:35am EDT

1 of 3. Nine-time New York Marathon winner Grete Waitz watches the start of the New York City Marathon in this November 6, 2005 file photo. Waitz has died at the age of 57, Norwegian media reported on April 19, 2011. Waitz had been suffering from cancer.

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OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's former marathon world record holder and world champion Grete Waitz has died at the age of 57, the Norwegian Athletics Federation said Tuesday. Waitz had been suffering from cancer.

Waitz won the inaugural world marathon title in Helsinki in 1983 and a year later took Olympic silver in Los Angeles, the first time the event was included in a Games for female runners.

She won her first New York City marathon in 1978, setting a world best time before winning the race a further eight times. Waitz also won the London marathon in 1983 and 1986, setting world records on each occasion.

"Grete Waitz was one of a kind," Norwegian Athletics Federation president Svein Arne Hansen said. "To me, she was also the greatest athlete we've had in Norwegian history."

American Joan Benoit Samuelson, who pipped Waitz to Olympic gold in 1984, paid tribute to a "friend, mentor and role model."

"She was the queen of Norway and the queen of hearts in sports," she told Reuters.

"I will always remember her graciousness, goodwill and as a competitor. It is a huge loss."

In a Twitter post, current marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe remembered Waitz as "an amazing champion and more amazing person."

(Reporting by Victoria Klesty, additional reporting by Gene Cherry, editing by Justin Palmer)

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