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Grant Wahl's wife reveals cause of death in first interview since he died at World Cup in Qatar

Dr. Celine Gounder on late husband Grant Wahl
Dr. Celine Gounder on late husband Grant Wahl's legacy 06:59

Grant Wahl's wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, told CBS News on Wednesday the renowned soccer journalist died due to an aortic aneurysm that ruptured. 

"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," said Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and CBS News contributor.

"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," she told "CBS Mornings" co-host Gayle King in her first interview since her husband's passing. 

Wahl died on Friday at the age of 49 while in Qatar covering the World Cup. His agent, Tim Scanlan, had said the journalist "appeared to have suffered some sort of acute distress in the press room" of the stadium during the quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands, when the two teams began playing in extra time. Paramedics were called to the scene, Scanlan said, but were unable to revive him. 

Qatari officials said in a statement that Wahl "received immediate medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital."

Gounder said she was wrapping up work calls Friday when she saw messages coming in on Twitter, text and email, and realized "clearly something wrong." She was told her husband had collapsed and was taken to the hospital after about 20 minutes of CPR. She tried to track down someone at the hospital to tell her what happened. 

"I kept on asking: Did he have a pulse?" she said. "If he had a pulse when he left the stadium that would have been a good sign, but no one would answer the question. And so to me — I was scared."

Grant Wahl
Grant Wahl is seen at a game between the U.S. men's national team and Ecuador at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut, on Oct. 10, 2014. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Gounder tweeted Friday that she was "in complete shock" over her husband's death and thanked Wahl's "soccer family" and their friends for their support.

"To know that he was loved by so many people makes me feel a little less alone," Gounder told King. "It's like a warm hug when you really need it."

A prolific journalist, Wahl wrote for multiple outlets and was a CBS Sports contributor. He was an analyst on CBS Sports HQ throughout the Qatar World Cup, and wrote guest columns focused on the U.S. men's national team for CBS Sports. He was also an editorial consultant for soccer documentaries on Paramount+.

Wahl spoke about his health on his Spotify podcast Thursday, saying that he had contracted bronchitis while covering the World Cup. Scanlan told CBS News that Wahl had an "aggressive schedule" while in Qatar. 

Tributes quickly poured in for Wahl after he died, from athletes like LeBron James and Billie Jean King.

His body was repatriated to the United States on Monday.

"I want people to remember him as this kind, generous person who was really dedicated to social justice," Gounder said. 

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