Dr. Céline Gounder (Photo taken from Gounder’s Twitter page)
Dr. Céline Gounder, the wife of soccer journalist Grant Wahl, wrote a full letter about her late husband, which was released to the media on Wednesday morning.
Wahl passed away last week covering the World Cup in Qatar.
He was 48.
Here is what Gounder wrote:
First and foremost, on behalf of myself and our family, I want to express our deepest gratitude for the outpouring of support, love, and sympathy from around the world. This continues to be a very difficult and painful time as we grieve a beloved husband, brother, and friend. It is some comfort to know that so many people Grant reached — countless colleagues, readers, athletes, coaches, friends and fans — are grieving alongside us.
“Grant arrived home Monday, December 12, and this transition was handled with the utmost care and sensitivity. This was an international matter that required coordination from multiple agencies domestically and internationally, and there was full cooperation from everyone involved. Our sincere gratitude to everyone involved in repatriating Grant, in particular the White House, the U.S. Department of State, FIFA, U.S. Soccer and American Airlines.
“An autopsy was performed by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office. Grant died from the rupture of a slowly growing, undetected ascending aortic aneurysm with hemopericardium. The chest pressure he experienced shortly before his death may have represented the initial symptoms. No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him. His death was unrelated to COVID. His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death.
“While the world knew Grant as a great journalist, we knew him as a man who approached the world with openness and love. 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.
“As a journalist, Grant began his career in 1996 at Sport Illustrated, straight out of Princeton University. As he grew into a feature writer, he captured some of the biggest stories in the sports world, like his celebrated cover story on LeBron James at age 16, his account of the US Women’s World Cup win in 1999, and his story of one soccer family’s loss and resilience. In 2009 he began covering soccer exclusively, and became an influential voice in elevating both men’s and women’s soccer in the U.S., becoming a New York Times bestselling author of two books on some of the greatest players in the game.
“In 2021, when he began working independently, he continued pursuing the same levels of journalistic rigor that had marked his career. Grant had a deep respect and appreciation for his audience. He devoted his work life to earning their—your—time and respect in turn. Above all, he expressed his values through his work: his commitments to seeking truth through reporting, supporting fundamental human rights, and fighting for equality.
“Grant radiated pride about my professional life, which he supported with all of his being, as I did his. But our lives together were about so much more than our work. What drew us together were shared values. Shaped by strong women like his mother Helen and the late New York Times war correspondent Gloria Emerson, Grant was a feminist, by which I mean a staunch advocate for equality, and not just on the basis of sex.
“We were also both deeply invested in one another’s families. Grant knew when someone was in crisis and he needed to drop everything to be there for them—be that his family or mine. Grant and his brother Eric were the ballast to our family after my father passed away suddenly, just as I coordinated the care for Grant’s parents in their last years of life.
“Our families shared many fun times together, too. We gorged on his father Dave’s deep dish pizza over beers. My little sister Stephanie was eight when she met Grant and can barely remember a time when he wasn’t part of the family. The first time they met, they spent hours playing chess. Grant and I traveled to wine country with my sister Sabine and her husband. We shared a love of art house films with Grant’s brother Eric. We hiked with my uncles in the French Alps, picnicking on bread, saucisson, and wine. Grant joined me on my first trip to my father’s village in India, endearing himself to everyone. My family in France and India are mourning him, too. Grant wasn’t just my family. He was our family.
“A memorial service to celebrate Grant’s life is being planned and details will be forthcoming.”