(Adds details, reaction)
* Dale Oen dead at 26
* National hero after winning gold in aftermath of massacre
OSLO, May 1 Norwegian world champion swimmer
Alexander Dale Oen has died of a suspected heart attack in
Arizona at the age of 26, the Norwegian Olympic Committee said
Dale Oen became a national hero last year when he won the
100 metres breaststroke at the world championships in Shanghai
just days after Norway had been rocked by the massacre of 77
people by far right fanatic Anders Behring Breivik.
One of his country's best hopes for a medal at this year's
London Olympics, Dale Oen was attending an altitude training
camp when he died.
After a day of light training and a game of golf, his team
mates became worried when they noticed he had spent a long time
in the shower on Monday evening and after breaking into the
bathroom, they found him lying half-in and half-out of the bath
Ola Ronsen, doctor to Norway's elite Olympians, was quickly
on the scene and an ambulance arrived shortly afterwards, but
despite their best efforts to revive him Dale Oen was pronounced
dead at 2100 local time.
"This is incredibly sad and tragic," Ronsen said. "As a
doctor, it is painful experience not to succeed with
"Everything was done according to procedure, and everything
was tried, so it's infinitely sad that we were unable to revive
Born in Oygarden in south-western Norway, Dale Oen's career
was ground-breaking for Norwegian swimming, and his bronze medal
at the 2006 short course championships was the first for a
Norwegian man in a world event.
He also won his country's first Olympic swimming medal when
he took silver in the 100m breaststroke in Beijing in 2008 but
it was at the 2011 world championships that he became a real
national hero to the Norwegian people.
As he prepared for the 100m breaststroke competition in
Shanghai, Norway was thrown into shock by the massacre of 77
people and Dale Oen struggled with his emotions in the
aftermath, touching the Norwegian flag on his swimming cap every
time he entered the pool deck.
Three days later, he swam to victory in the 100m
breaststroke final and dedicated his triumph to the Norwegian
"We need to let everyday life come back because we cannot
get things ruined," he told reporters after the race.
"In a time like this for Norway, we need to be together, to
be one. I think now that everyone back at home, of course, is
paralysed. I can feel the emotion, but I'm here in Shanghai and
I have to show my best and ... just think of those at home."
Together with prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, the swimmer
became a symbol of hope that life in Norway could return to
normal after the savagery of Breivik's attacks.
These old wounds were recently ripped open once again when
Breivik went on trial on April 16 in an Oslo courtroom.
The gruesome details of the 77 fatalities - the vast
majority children and teenagers gunned down at a Labour youth
camp on the island of Utoya - were once again played out across
But instead of looking forward to the Olympics and another
medal for Dale Oen, the small nordic nation is now preparing for
another unexpected funeral.
Stoltenberg expressed his shock and grief at the loss of his
compatriot, telling TV2 that "this is a great loss for his
family and friends, but also for all of Norway".
He revealed that he had spoken to Dale Oen at the annual
sports gala event in Norway.
"He told me that there was a strange, mixed feeling to win
the medal while he received the tragic news from Norway, (but)
the way he carried on and managed a great sporting performance,
and also to show dignity, caring and compassion, it shows that
he was not only a great athlete, he was also a warm and good
person," Stoltenberg said.
Dale Oen was active on social media site Twitter and in his
final message he told his followers he was looking forward to
returning to his native country.
"2 days left of our camp up here in Flagstaff, then it's
back to the most beautiful city in Norway - Bergen," he wrote.
Norwegian officials offered their condolences to Dale Oen's
family and friends, and to the wider Norwegian sporting
"My thoughts go first and foremost to his family in
Oygarden," Per Rune Eknes, president of the Norwegian Swimming
Federation said in a statement. "This is the toughest day the
sport of swimming in Norway has ever had."
"Norwegian sport has lost a sporting hero, not just because
of his performances in the pool, but also because of his
manner," said Borre Rognilen, president of Norway's Olympic
(Additional reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, Writing by
Phillip O'Connor in Stockholm; Editing by Ed Osmond)