South African Olympic distance swimmer Chad Ho’s victory in the last leg of the 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates this weekend was overshadowed by the death of top American swimmer Fran Crippen at the event.
Crippen, 26, the bronze medallist in both the 10km event at the Rome worlds in 2009 and the FINA world open water championships in Canada this year, had ambitions to become the first American to medal in open water swimming at the 2012 London Olympics.
“While the causes of this death remain under investigation, FINA and the entire aquatic community address, in this moment of grief, their deepest and sincere condolences to his family, friends and to US Aquatic Sports and USA Swimming family,” the world swimming body said in a statement.
USA Swimming added that it was “deeply saddened by the death of Fran Crippen”, who was a two-time US champion in the pool in the 800m freestyle event before moving into open water swimming in 2006. “Fran was a champion swimmer but more importantly, a tremendous person, and he will be remembered for so many extraordinary qualities.
“We send our sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to the Crippen family, a family that is a treasured member of the USA swimming family. We will continue to work with FINA, the meet host and others to determine how this tragedy occurred.”
Organisers had reportedly called in deep sea divers after all swimmers were thought to have finished the five 2km laps.
The police and coast guard divers spent two hours searching for Crippen, managing to find him unconscious just before the final buoy, it reported. He was brought to shore and rushed by ambulance to the main hospital in Fujairah.
Ho was at the top of the overall standings with 112 points and Crippen was second with 94 points, Ho mentioned that he had not seen the American in the water during the later stages of the race. It was then that it came to light that Crippen had never managed to cross the finish line and an extensive search was made.