OSLO, Norway (AP)—Grete Waitz, the Norwegian runner who won nine New York City Marathons and the silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, died Tuesday after a six-year battle with cancer. She was 57.
Helle Aanesen, the manager of the Active Against Cancer Foundation in Norway, said Waitz died early Tuesday at the Ulleval University Hospital in Oslo.
A former Oslo schoolteacher, Waitz won her firstNew York City Marathon in 1978, setting a world best in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 30 seconds in her first attempt at running the distance. She went on to win eight more times, with her last victory coming in 1988.
She won the London Marathon twice, in 1983 and '86, the Stockholm Marathon in 1988 and earned five titles at the world cross-country championships from 1978-81 and 1983.
Waitz also won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1983 world championships in Helsinki, Finland. A year later, she took second behind Joan Benoit in the first women's Olympic marathon.
Waitz competed at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics in the 1,500 meters, but missed the 1980 Moscow Games because of the American-led boycott.
"Grete is in my eyes one of the greatest Norwegian athletes of all time," Norwegian Athletics Federation president Svein Arne Hansen said. "Not only through her performances in the sport, but also as a role model for women in sports."
In aTwitter posting, marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe remembered Waitz as "an amazing champion and more amazing person."
Retired cyclistLance Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer to win the Tour de France seven times, called Waitz "a good friend and an incredible athlete" on his Twitter feed.
New York Road Runner President and CEO Mary Wittenberg said her legacy will live on through Grete's Gallop and other running programs in the city.
"We are sad to lose a dear friend and our most decorated champion," said Wittenberg, the NYC Marathon race director. "Her strength and grace throughout her fight with cancer were incredible.
"She was deeply important in making the New York City Marathon what it is today, and she inspired generations of women."
Aanesen said a private funeral ceremony is planned for next week, according to Waitz's wishes.
Waitz is survived by her husband Jack Waitz and her two brothers, Jan and Arild.
Waitz had never run a marathon when she started the New York City race in October 1978. Her husband had talked her into trying, but after about 18 miles she regretted it.
"I was hurting. I was mad. I was angry. I told Jack: 'Never again," Waitz recalled in 2008.
She broke the world record three more times: In New York in 1979 and '80 and in London in '83.
"She will be remembered as one of the best marathon runners of her time,"International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said.
The International Track and Field Association called her "one of the brightest flames" of modern athletics.