Grant Wahl's Aneurysm Was 'Likely Brewing for Years,' His Wife Says in First Interview

"For whatever reason, it happened at this point in time," Dr. Céline Gounder said on CBS Mornings Wednesday, in her first interview since the soccer journalist's death

Grant Wahl
Grant Wahl. Photo: Brendan Moran/FIFA/Getty

Grant Wahl's wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, discussed his death from a ruptured aortic aneurysm in her first interview since her husband's death.

"He had an autopsy done here in New York by the New York City medical examiner's office, and it showed that he had an aortic aneurysm that ruptured," the infectious disease specialist, who is a contributor to CBS News, told Gayle King Wednesday on CBS Mornings.

"It's just one of these things that had been likely brewing for years, and for whatever reason, it happened at this point in time."

The soccer journalist died Friday at age 48 while covering the World Cup in Qatar.

According to CBS News, his agent, Tim Scanlan, had said Wahl "appeared to have suffered some sort of acute distress in the press room" during the quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands. Paramedics were called to the scene but unable to revive him while he was transferred to Hamad General Hospital.

Gounder was wrapping up a work call on Friday when she saw messages coming in on Twitter, text and email. She tried to find someone at the hospital, and asked if he had a pulse, "but no one would answer the question. I was scared."

Celine Gounder
Celine Gounder.

Gounder said she wanted to be the one to identify Wahl's body herself, even though others could have done so.

"I just really needed to see, because honestly this has been so surreal. Even now, having seen the body, it's really hard to believe this is real. But I just needed that."

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The outpouring of support — from soccer players like Mia Hamm, from Wahl's fellow sportswriters, from fans — has helped her through these dark days, Gounder said.

"It's so touching to know that he was so loved by so many people. It makes me feel a little bit less alone. It's like a warm hug, when you really need it, in moment like this."

And Gounder said that she is getting through this trying time with the help of family and friends.

"I had two friends come over right after I heard, another friend came over later Friday night, she stayed with me, she slept over two nights through Sunday, and she was the one actually fielding all of the text messages, the emails, the calls, so that I wouldn't have to do too much. But everybody's just been so supportive."

She hopes Wahl is remembered for the man he was.

"I want people to remember him as this kind, generous person who was really dedicated to social justice. I think that's another aspect of soccer that was important to him — promoting the women's game, the recent statements he had made about LGBT rights. That was Grant."

She wrote more about him in a post on Substack.

"While the world knew Grant as a great journalist, we knew him as a man who approached the world with openness and love," she penned. "Grant was an incredibly empathetic, dedicated, and loving husband, brother, uncle, and son who was our greatest teammate and fan. We will forever cherish the gift of his life; to share his company was our greatest love and source of joy."

"Grant curated friends from all cultures and walks of life, for whom he was a generous listener, an enthusiast, a champion of others. To know Grant was to know a true renaissance man; he was endlessly curious about the world, and a lover of literature, art, music, food, and wine. He was equally in his element cooking a quiet dinner of sole provencal for two, walking his beloved Zizou and Coco through Manhattan, gathering friends for a raucous dinner party, and traipsing across Moldova chasing a story."

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