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Swimmers' desperate efforts to find U.S. competitor who died during race

posted 24 Oct 2010, 07:05 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 24 Oct 2010, 07:07 ]

Eyewitness describes moment swimmers searched for fellow competitor, American swimmer Francis Crippen, who was found dead during a 10 kilometre swimming race in the United Arab Emirates.

An eyewitness on Sunday (October 24) recounted how swimmers taking part in the Marathon Swimming World Cup 10 kilometre (km) race in Fujairah, searched frantically for fellow competitor, American swimmer Francis Crippen, who was later found dead by a team of divers.

The U.S. open water swimmer, who was a world championship bronze medallist, died during the race, world governing body FINA (Federation Internationale de Natation) said.

Alaric Gomes, who watched the race, said competitors realised Crippen was missing after the race finished.

"It was the swimmers who went out and they started looking all over the place and they just went out and they were full of worry, they were going in. And then the divers were called in and there were two coastguard boats, they were there and they were actively going diving in and trying to see where, and slowly they sort of narrowed down on where about he might have gone missing."

Gomes said the group of swimmers were very upset when Crippen's body was found and had comforted each other.

"(The) swimmers started weeping openly, I mean they were sad because one of theirs had gone missing and now they had found him and they knew what was obvious so, the people were consoling each other, hugging each other and people who have swum, who have gone round the world and suddenly they find that one of them is no more. It was pretty sad to see," Gomes said.

Fellow competitor Ana Marcela Cunha, who came third in the 10 kilometre swim, said she remembered him from seeing him in the competitions.

"He used to talk to everybody knowing them or not. And that's the image he is going to leave with us here," she said.

Crippen, 26, won a 10km bronze medal at the 2009 world championships in Rome and a 5km bronze at the world open water championships in Canada this year.

"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 U.S. Aquatic Sports and the USA Swimming family," FINA said in a statement.

Crippen, who won two U.S. titles in the pool in the 800m freestyle before switching to open water in 2006, died during

the last leg of the World Cup event in Fujairah, FINA said.

On his Facebook page, Crippen posted a message on Thursday saying he was "in Dubai for the final World Cup of the season and then off to Italy for vacation!"

Crippen, who was hoping to become the first U.S. medallist in open water swimming at an Olympic Games in 2012, came from a family that is well known in the swimming world.

His oldest sister, Maddy, competed in the Sydney Olympics in 2000 while younger sister Claire was an All-American at the University of Virginia. Another younger sister, Teresa, swims for the University of Florida and the U.S. National team.

"Fran was a champion swimmer but, more importantly, a tremendous person, and he will be remembered for so many

extraordinary qualities," USA Swimming said in a statement.

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) said in a statement it was saddened to learn of Crippen's death.

"While details of this tragedy are still forthcoming, we shall keep this outstanding young athlete and his family in our

thoughts and prayers."