Gabriele Grunewald battled cancer for a decade. Picture: Andy Lyons/Getty
Gabriele Grunewald battled cancer for a decade. Picture: Andy Lyons/Getty

Inspirational athletics star dead at 32

AMERICAN distance runner Gabriele Grunewald, who became an inspirational figure to thousands of fans after continuing to compete at a high level despite a decade-long battle with cancer, has died.

She was 32.

Grunewald's husband, Justin, announced his wife's death in a post on Instagram on Tuesday (local time), two days after revealing her condition had deteriorated and she had entered end-of-life care.

"At 7:52 I said 'I can't wait until I get to see you again' to my hero, my best friend, my inspiration, my wife," Justin Grunewald wrote in the post, beneath a photo of the couple running.

" I know I will never be able to fill this gaping hole in my heart or fill the shoes you have left behind," he added. "Your family loves you dearly as do your friends."

Gabriele Grunewald was first diagnosed with a rare salivary gland cancer in 2009, a year before she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Gabriele Grunewald impressed many with her courage. Picture: Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune via AP
Gabriele Grunewald impressed many with her courage. Picture: Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune via AP

However, she continued to run between bouts of surgery and treatment, and narrowly missed out on a place at the 2012 Olympics after finishing fourth at the US trials in the 1500m.

She won the 2014 USA Indoor championship gold for 3000m.

In 2016, she finished in 12th place in the 1500m finals at the US Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, just weeks before undergoing surgery in August of that year to remove a large tumour from her liver.

Britain's world marathon record-holder Paula Radcliffe was among those who paid tribute to Grunewald on Wednesday.

"The bravery, heart and smile of (Gabriele Grunewald) will always shine brightly and inspire so many," Radcliffe wrote. "Thinking of you and of @JustinGrunewald and all those whose lives were enriched by your courage and love."

USA Track & Field said Grunewald "will be remembered as one of the bravest athletes we knew." "Her legacy lives on as she inspired a world of people," the organisation added.

News Corp Australia

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