LONDON, July 28 (Reuters) - He was not among the 44 athletes competing in the 100 metres breaststroke as London’s Olympic Games got underway on Saturday but Norwegian world champion Alexander Dale Oen, who died in April, was firmly on swimmers’ minds.
Dale Oen won his country’s first Olympic swimming medal in 2008 when he took silver in the 100 breaststroke in Beijing and he became a national hero after winning the same event at the world championships in 2011 - just days after Norway was hit by a massacre that killed 77 people.
He died of a heart attack at an altitude training camp in Arizona at the age of 26.
“It is strange to be in the pool without him. We always used to wish each other well for the race,” South African Cameron van der Burgh told reporters after the heats.
Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima, the defending Olympic champion, said he felt “sorrow” at the absence of his friend and rival.
Dale Oen’s compatriots have their own way of honouring him.
“By swimming fast, remembering everything he taught us and going for the goals we set together,” Norway’s Sara Nordenstam said after competing in the women’s 400m individual medley.
Nordenstam failed to make it through Saturday’s heats, but her main event will be the 200 breaststroke next week. (Reporting by Clara Ferreira-Marques)