Grant Wahl: Sports reporter died of an aortic aneurysm, wife says


American soccer reporter Grant Wall, who was covering the World Cup in Qatar last week, died of a ruptured aortic aneurysm, his wife, Dr. Celine Gunder, said Wednesday.

“It’s just one of those things that’s been years in the making, and for whatever reason,” Gounder said on “CBS This Morning.”

In a lengthy statement, Gounder said an autopsy performed by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office determined that he “died from a slow-growing, ascending aortic aneurysm not identified with hemopericardium.”

“The chest pressure he experienced before he died may have been the first symptoms. No amount of CPR or shock would have saved him,” he said.

Wahl, a longtime college basketball and soccer reporter for Sports Illustrated and its own newsletter, collapsed while covering Friday’s Argentina-Netherlands game and was later pronounced dead. He was 49 years old.

He covered football for more than two decades, including 11 World Cups – six men’s, five women’s – and authored several books on the sport.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said his body was sent to the US for an autopsy on Monday.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an aortic aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the chest. A burst occurs when the force of blood suction separates the layers of the artery wall, allowing blood to leak out. When an aneurysm ruptures, it bursts completely, causing bleeding inside the body.

The CDC says aortic aneurysm or dissection caused about 10,000 deaths in 2019. About 59% of them were men.

In an episode of the Football Podcast with Grant Wall that aired just days before his death on Dec. 6, he complained about feeling unwell.

“It got really bad in terms of tightness, tightness, pressure in my chest. I feel very hairy, I feel bad,” Wall told co-host Chris Whittingham in the episode. He also added that he went to the clinic in the World Cup media center for what he thought was bronchitis.

He went on to explain the incident in a recent newsletter published on December 5, where he wrote that his body was “broken” after a lack of sleep, intense stress and heavy work. He had a cold for 10 days that “turned into something more severe,” he wrote, adding that he felt better after taking antibiotics and sleeping.

The tributes to her late husband are comforting and comforting, Gounder said in an interview with CBS.

“He was loved by so many people,” she said, and hearing his voice “is like a warm hug when you really need it.”

He said he knew something was wrong last week when he started seeing reports from a friend that Val had collapsed and paramedics tried CPR for 20 minutes. He tried to track down someone at the hospital in Qatar to find out more and asked if he had a pulse.

“No one answers the question,” he said. “I was scared.”

She also said that she went to see her late husband’s body; “I just had to see,” he said.

“Honestly, it was very surreal… even after seeing the body, it’s really hard to believe it’s real, but I needed it,” she said.

Although he is not a sports fan, Val said: “Football is not just a sport, it is something that connects people all over the world.”

“There is a lot about culture, sports politics, football. For him, it was a way to really understand people and where they came from,” he said. “I want people to remember him as a kind, generous man who was truly committed to social justice.”

She recalled how her husband promoted the women’s game and his recent statements on LGBT rights. “It was Grant,” he said.


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