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Keitani Graham, Olympic wrestler and hero to Micronesians, dies

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    Keitani Graham of Micronesia competes against Charles Edward Betts of the United States, right, during the 84-kg Greco-Roman wrestling competition.
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Olympic wrestler Keitani Graham, a Micronesia sports hero and role model who was born and educated in Hawaii, has died in Chuuk.

Chuuk Gov. Johnson Elimo, who is a cousin of Graham, confirmed the death today. He could not confirm the cause of death but was told that Graham suffered a heart attack early today in Chuuk (Thursday in Hawaii.)

Graham, 32, competed in Greco-Roman wrestling in the Olympics last summer in London, representing the Federated States of Micronesia. He lost in a 185-pound qualifying match to Charles Edward Betts of the United States.

Graham trained for the Olympics on Oahu, and did volunteer work with youth at Palama Settlement.

He was born in Kealakekua on Hawaii island and is an alumnus of Punahou School and Holy Cross College. He competed in track and field at Punahou and as a decathlete at Holy Cross.

In 2003 he taught at Central Intermediate School on Oahu.

He was executive director of Ship/Hoops, a nonprofit organization on Chuuk that created educational and sports opportunities for children. Graham was also a key figure in a group building a school in Chuuk.

“We just opened a small school and the plan is to add a grade a year till we have a full school, but this all depends on funding and finding qualified teachers,” Graham said in an interview with the Star-Advertiser during the Olympics. “I think improving things at home will also help improve things abroad for Chuukese and I’m glad there are many Micronesian individuals and groups out there in Hawaii and Guam that are also taking on the problems and issues and working on improving things.”

Elimo said in an e-mail that Graham was a community leader destined for great things.

“This is sad not only for the family but also all of Chuuk, especially the youths who look up to this spectacular individual as their role model,” he wrote.

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