Top US athlete Ryan Shay, 28, collapses and dies during race

NEW YORK - Top distance runner Ryan Shay died during the US men's Olympic marathon trials on Saturday after collapsing about 9km into the race.

NEW YORK - Top distance runner Ryan Shay died during the US men's Olympic marathon trials on Saturday after collapsing about 9km 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 organised the race.

She said Shay received immediate medical attention. The medical examiner's office said an autopsy was to be performed yesterday.

"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 a need for a pacemaker when he is older.

Shay, of Flagstaff, Arizona, hit the ground near the Central Park boathouse, a popular Manhattan tourist spot, during the 42,1km qualifier for the Beijing Olympics.

Shay was a favourite going into the 2004 trials but was hampered by a hamstring strain and finished 23rd. He was the 2003 US marathon champion and was third at this year's US 25K championships. He also won the US half marathon in 2003 and 2004. He was the US College 10000m champion in 2001, the first national individual title in track for Notre Dame.

Shay was the US 20000m road racing champion in 2004, making him a four-time national champion.

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

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