Fran Crippen (AP Photo)
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Fran Crippen, a medal-winning open water swimmer on the U.S. national team, told his coach he wasn't feeling well late in a race before he died in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.
The 26-year-old swimmer from suburban Philadelphia was competing in the FINA Open Water 10-kilometer World Cup in Fujairah, south of Dubai, but failed to finish and was found in the water two hours later, according to Swimming World.
The magazine said the water temperature was in the mid- to high 80s, and several swimmers were treated for heat exhaustion after the race.
FINA President Julio Maglione of Uruguay said he was told that after eight kilometers Crippen told his coach that he wasn't feeling well.
"He continued and he was found in the deep of the water," Maglione said from Acapulco, Mexico, where he was attending Olympic meetings.
Maglione said it was the first death in any FINA event.
"It's like (what) happens sometimes in soccer, in basketball, in other sports. In one moment, one athlete dies," he said.
Maglione said FINA has opened an investigation.
"All was under strict rules that exist in our competition. All was absolutely correct," he said. "It was an accident, a terrible accident."
In addition to Crippen, Maglione said three other swimmers — two U.S. women and one Brazilian — were taken to a hospital.
"They are not in any kind of problem," he said.
Eva Fabian of Keene, N.H., and Christine Jennings of Longmont, Colo., along with Alex Meyer of Ithaca, N.Y., also competed in the meet.
USA Swimming said coaches, athletes, members and employees were "deeply saddened" by Crippen's death.
"Fran was a champion swimmer but more importantly, a tremendous person, and he will be remembered for so many extraordinary qualities," the organization said in a statement. "We will continue to work with FINA, the meet host and others to determine how this tragedy occurred."
The U.S. Olympic Committee said, "We send our condolences and deepest sympathies to the Crippen family as well as to our entire swimming community. While details of this tragedy are still forthcoming, we shall keep this outstanding young athlete and his family in our thoughts and prayers."
Crippen attended Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa., and swam for the University of Virginia. He was the silver medalist in the 10k at the Pan Pacific championships in August, earned a bronze medal in the 10k at the 2009 world championships, was national champion in the 5k in 2009, and won a gold medal in the 10K at the 2007 Pan American Games.
Crippen finished fourth in the 10k and fifth in the 5k at this year's world championships. He competed in the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials.
On his Facebook page, he posted Thursday that he was "in Dubai for the final World Cup of the season and then off to Italy for vacation!"
The page now has many messages of condolence from friends and fellow swimmers.
"Fran you will be missed you were the best of the best," said 2000 Olympic silver medalist Kristy Kowal.
Crippen's family is well-known in the swimming world. Maddy Crippen swam for Villanova and competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Claire Crippen was an NCAA All-American at Virginia, and Teresa Crippen currently swims for the University of Florida and is a member of the U.S. national team.
"He was our hero," said Maddy Crippen, reached at her parents' home in Conshohocken. "We loved him very much, and we'll all miss him."
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