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article imageHeart problem kills Simon Fraser University football hero aged 21

By Salim Jiwa     Nov 12, 2009 in Health
Simon Fraser University football star Bernd Dittrich was found unconscious in a university pool on Tuesday. He died Wednesday, plunging the university with 30,000 students into mourning. SFU said an undetected heart condition killed the top athlete.
BURNABY, B.C. – A previously undetected heart condition is suspected in the shocking death of top Simon Fraser University football player Bernd Dittrich, 21.
Dittrich, who was from Austria, was found unconscious in a swimming pool at SFU on Tuesday evening. He died at Royal Columbian Hospital on Wednesday plunging the university community into mourning over the loss of a top athlete.
Simon Fraser University honored his memory by placing his picture on top of the institution’s web site.
“Dittrich, a quarterback for the SFU Clan football team, died in Royal Columbian hospital Wednesday morning. He was taken to hospital Tuesday evening after losing consciousness in a swimming pool on SFU’s Burnaby campus,” said SFU media director Don MacLachlan.
“Bernie” is survived by his family in Austria.
“While cause of death has yet to be officially determined, SFU’s head football coach, Dave Johnson, said he had learned at the hospital in New Westminster that Dittrich had a previously undetected heart condition,” MacLachlan said.
“He was a special young man. He is a kid who was a great example to our young guys, and a leader for our older guys. He was a great kid. We have 94 guys in the locker room and Bernie was one of the leaders of that group,” said Johnson who was stunned at the death of young and popular sportsman.
Johnson added that Dittrich was using swimming as a means of rehabilitating an injured shoulder that had kept him out of the last two games.
Originally from Vienna, Austria, Dittrich moved to Heavener, Oklahoma, at the age of 17 for his senior year of high school, and played both quarterback and linebacker for the Heavener Wolves.
Growing up in Vienna, Dittrich fell in love with the sport of American Football, and played for the Vienna Vikings club team, where he was coached by current SFU offensive coordinator Shawn Olson for five years.
Olson recruited Dittrich to play for Simon Fraser, and the mobile pivot joined the Clan football team in August of 2007 alongside his fellow Vienna Viking teammate Daniel Stanzel.
“Our hearts go out to Bernd’s family,” said SFU’s Senior Director of Athletics, Dr. David Murphy. “The SFU athletics community has lost an exceptional young man. Bernd was not only a great athlete on the field, but also an inspiring individual in all aspects of life. We will miss him tremendously.
“He was an enthusiastic leader, someone who was always willing to help out; just a terrific kid. The whole (SFU Athletics) department, not just the football team, is grieving,” he said in a statement on the university's website. .
While the third-year Bachelor of Science student played a minor role with the team during his first season, Dittrich was named starting quarterback of the Clan in 2008.
In his first career start, he led SFU to their first victory in over three years, a 24-10 win over UBC. Following the victory, an emotional Dittrich fought back tears while describing how much the win meant to his teammates and coaching staff.
In 2008, Dittrich led the Clan to their best record since 2003 (5-3), a fourth-quarter comeback win in the 2008 Shrum Bowl against UBC, and an appearance in the Canada West Hardy Cup final. A shoulder injury in 2009 limited Dittrich to six games this past season.
Playing in 24 total games for the Clan, Dittrich threw for 2684 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing for 763 yards and eight touchdowns.
Known affectionately as ‘Bernie,’ Dittrich was an inspiration to his teammates, and was known for his enthusiasm and tremendous work ethic. He will be greatly missed, MacLachlan added.
It is unclear if his body will be repatriated and when a funeral service will be held for the star football player.
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