Norwegian Olympian Grete Waitz passed away today at the age of 57. Her six-year battle with cancer ended early this morning at the Ulleval University Hospital in Oslo.
Waitz is best known for her nine New York City marathon victories, including her debut marathon in 1978 where she set a world best of 2:32:30. "We are sad to lose a dear friend and our most decorated champion," said New York Road Runners President and CEO Mary Wittenberg. "Her strength and grace throughout her fight with cancer were incredible."
Waitz broke the world record three more times (New York in 1979 and 1980, and London in 1983), in addition to winning the 1986 London marathon, the 1988 Stockholm marathon, and a silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics -- to name a few.
"Grete is in my eyes one of the greatest Norwegian athletes of all time," Norwegian Athletics Federation president Svein Arne Hansen told the Associated Press. "Not only through her performances in the sport, but also as a role model for women in sports."
Waitz began cancer treatment in 2005. She did not disclose many details, but was optimistic at the time that her condition might improve. "I am convinced you can go through a lot more when you are physically fit," said Waitz, according to the New York Times. "It is both physical and mental. With the athletic background, you think more on the positive side -- you can do this."