Ryan Shay dies during Olympic trials

Top distance runner Ryan Shay died during the U.S. men's Olympic marathon trials on Saturday after collapsing about 5 1/2 miles into the race.

updated: November 05, 2007 12:14 IST
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New York:

Top distance runner Ryan Shay died during the U.S. men's Olympic marathon trials on Saturday after collapsing about 5 1/2 miles (9 kilometers) into the race. He was 28.

Shay was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital and was pronounced dead, New York Road Runners president Mary Wittenberg said.

"It cuts a knife through everybody's hearts," said Wittenberg, whose group organized the race.

She said Shay received immediate medical attention. The medical examiner's office said an autopsy will be performed on Sunday.

"There were several layers of medical response. It was very quick," said Wittenberg, who would not elaborate on what steps were taken.

Shay's father, Joe, said his son was first diagnosed with a larger than normal heart at age 14.

Joe Shay told The Associated Press, his son was cleared for running this spring by doctors but was told he might have need a pacemaker when he is older.

And years ago, after a car accident as a 16-year-old, Joe Shay said doctors re-evaluated Ryan's heart and determined it had gotten even larger. Each time, he said, they believed it was because Ryan was a runner.

"But he never complained about it," Joe Shay said.

Shay of Flagstaff, Arizona, hit the ground near the Central Park boathouse, a popular Manhattan tourist spot, during the 26.2-mile (42.1-kilometer) qualifier for the Beijing Games.

The death came a day before the New York City Marathon, when millions usually line the streets in one of the sport's showcase days.

"He was a tremendous champion who was here today to pursue his dreams," said Craig Masback, chief executive of U.S. track and field's governing body. "The Olympic trials is traditionally a day of celebration, but we are heartbroken."

Shay was a favorite going into the 2004 trials but was hampered by a hamstring strain and finished 23rd. He was the 2003 U.S. marathon champion and was third at this year's U.S. 25K championships.

He also won the U.S. half marathon in 2003 and 2004. He was the U.S. College 10,000-meter champion in 2001, the first national individual title in track for Notre Dame.

Shay was the U.S. 20,000-meters (20K) road-racing champion in 2004, making him a four-time national champion.

His wife, Alicia, also is a top distance runner. She was a two-time college champion and the collegiate 10,000-meter record-holder while running as Alicia Craig at Stanford.

She and Ryan met at the 2005 NYC Marathon and they married in July. Alicia was hoping to make it to Beijing in the women's 10,000 meters.

"My thoughts and prayers just go out to them and their family," said winner Ryan Hall, a college teammate of Alicia's at Stanford.

Shay, who was born in Michigan and graduated from Notre Dame, qualified for the trials at the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon.

Before the race, Shay said during a conference call he had moved from Mammoth Lakes, California, where he had been training with Team Running USA, to Flagstaff, where he was training at the Center For High Altitude Training.

Women's marathon 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor, who once trained with Shay, called it a big loss for the running community.