Norwegian Olympic swimmer dies in Flagstaff
One of Norway’s biggest Olympic gold medal prospects died while in his Flagstaff hotel room Monday night.
Alexander Dale Oen, 26, was found in the bathroom by swimming teammates after suffering from cardiac arrest.
The Norwegian national swim team’s doctor performed CPR for six minutes until the ambulance arrived and transported Oen to Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC). Hospital staff attempted to start his heart for an hour before declaring him dead.
FMC confirmed the death, and as of Tuesday, the Flagstaff Police Department concluded there were no signs of foul play or trauma.
According to the team’s coach, Peter Lovberg, Oen showed no signs of health problems that day and only participated in a light workout and a round of golf that afternoon.
In Flagstaff for Norway’s pre-Olympic training camp, the team was preparing to leave the states in a few days after being in Arizona for three weeks to take advantage of NAU’s high altitude training facilities.
Oen was the gold medalist for the 100-meter breast stroke at this past year’s world championships in Shanghai, which he won only three days after a massacre killing 77 people traumatized his home country.
Oen’s death came as a shock to the swimming community.
“We are truly saddened to learn about the death of Norwegian swimmer Alexander Dale Oen,” the USA Swimming Federation said in a statement. “USA Swimming extends its deepest condolences to his family and the Norwegian Swimming Federation. Dale Oen was a great competitor and he will be greatly missed by the entire swimming community.”
Lovberg was quoted on the Norwegian Swimming Federation’s website explaining the dismay the team is in.
“We are all in shock, and this is an out-of-body experience for the whole team over here,” Lovberg said. “Our thoughts now go primarily to families who have lost Alexander too early. Words cannot describe the grief they and we know now.”
Ola Ronsen, the Olympic doctor on site, explained his disappointment in his inability to save Oen. However, he assures he and FMC tried everything they could to revive him.
“This is incredibly sad and tragic. As a physician, it is painful to learn that we have not succeeded in resuscitation,” Ronsen said in a statement released by the Federation. “Everything was conducted according to procedures, and everything was tried, so it is infinitely sad that we were unable to revive him. It is painful to accept, but eventually reality creep into us.”
The death also shook the emotions of Flagstaff swimmers, who — according to NAU head swim coach Andy Johns — are grateful to have the ability to host so many international athletes.
“All of the Northern Arizona University swimming and diving family is deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Alexander Dale Oen,” Johns said. “We are blessed to have world class swimmers train in our facility and get to know great people like Alexander. Our condolences go out to his friends and family and the Norwegian Swimming Federation.”
Check for updates through the coming weeks on NorthernArizonaNews.com.