Norwegian swimmer Alexander Dale Oen, the world 100m breaststroke champion, died of hereditary heart disease, an Arizona medical examiner said today.
Dale Oen, considered one of his country's best medal hopes at this year's Summer Olympic Games in London, collapsed at a training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, on April 30 and was later pronounced dead. He was 26.
A first autopsy in early May proved inconclusive, but the results of a second set of tests released by the Coconino County Public Health Services District found he died of atherosclerotic coronary artery disease. The condition is essentially a hardening of the arteries, caused by plaque buildup that narrows and makes the arterial passages stiffer.
The condition makes it harder for blood to flow through arteries and is a common cause of heart attack.
"Based on the autopsy findings and the investigative history that's available to me, it's my opinion that Alexander Dale Oen died of atherosclerotic coronary artery disease," county medical examiner Lawrence Czarnecki wrote in his report.
"The decedent's only known risk factor for heart disease was familial," Czarnecki found, noting that one of Dale Oen's grandfathers died suddenly of heart disease at age 42.
"Given the decedent's young age and significant atherosclerotic disease, a follow-up and evaluation of family members is recommended," he added.
Dale Oen was found lying partially in a bath tub at the training facility after a day of light training and a game of golf. His teammates broke into the bathroom after noticing he had spent a long time inside.
A team doctor and paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive him.
He became a national hero in Norway last year when he won the 100m breaststroke at the world championships in Shanghai.