Friday, October 29, 2010

Thoughts On The Tragic Passing Of Fran Crippen

Firstly, and most importantly, my thoughts and prayers go out to the Crippen family as this was true tragedy.

I did not have the opportunity to meet Fran in my time in this sport but as someone who had a brother swimming at the same time I did and as both of us competed at Canadian Nationals I would keep an eye out for other families with multiple siblings competing at a high level in swimming. As someone who was keenly observant of prominent swimming families it is no hyperbole to say that there is no more prolific swimming family then then the Crippens.

Maddy, Teresa, and Claire were Fran's sisters, all terrific swimmers and Fran was one of the premier open water swimming talents on the planet. The sport could not have been hit with a more gut-wrenching loss.

I was at a swim meet with my group when I got word of this tragedy and the immediate shock at both the manner of his passing and the simple disbelief that such an accident could be let happen was striking. During my swimming career I swam a number of open water races, from simple mile races to 10km races, and even 25km races. Open water swimming is a terrific sport, although it can get somewhat isolating when you take on the longer races. That said, 10km never really seemed like a long race but in such hot conditions without the opportunity to hydrate in mid-race I'm horrified by what I can only imagine what Fran went through as things went wrong, trying to balance the isolation, his confidence that he was in impeccable shape and had swam 10km races countless times and then tragedy. I can vividly picture what may have happened and it moves me to tears.

I hope this does not ruin the sport of Open Water swimming, a sport that Fran competed in at the highest of levels. My greatest hope is that this draws greater attention to the need to hydrate properly and provide proper hydration stations in these races so to try and prevent such tragedies in the future. I also hope that USA Swimming gets to the bottom of other issues that may have caused this tragedy and leads a movement to make Open Water swimming as safe as possible so eventually we can get back to enjoying the pure fun and joy Open Water competition can provide swimmers.

Again, my thoughts and prayers as a member of the greater swimming community go out to the Crippen family, the sport is worse off with the loss of such a great swimmer.