Swimmer’s death leaves open questions
Might Fran Crippen still be alive if the organizers of last weekend’s World Cup 10-kilometer open swim in Dubai had paid more attention to safety?
Although the US swimmer dropped out of sight barely 400 meters from the finish line, it took two hours to find him because the required pursuit boat apparently wasn’t there and officials didn’t notice he’d gone missing.
“It was unacceptable that swimmers were searching for another swimmer,’’ said German race winner Thomas Lurz, an Olympic medalist and nine-time world champion. “That is horrible. This can’t be.’’
The 6-mile race, which was added to the Olympic program in 2008, is a rough-and-tumble event in which competitors routinely bang each other around.
Asked if he’d ever try the event, US swimmer Michael Phelps said, “Not a chance, no way. I won’t do open water.’’
What made things worse was that the water temperature may have been as high as 86 degrees (“amazingly hot,’’ said Lurz) and the swimmers struggled mightily, with several of them hospitalized.
The 26-year-old Crippen, who was buried yesterday in Pennsylvania, was no neophyte. He won a bronze medal at last year’s World Championships and likely would have made the team for the 2012 London Games. But he was concerned enough about what he deemed a lack of doctors and support staff that he’d written race organizers several times.
While it’s possible that Crippen died of overexertion in extreme conditions — which is what international swimming federation president Julio Maglione suggested — the fact is that his disappearance went unnoticed until it was too late.
“There were not enough lifeguards and there were not enough boats,’’ said Lurz’s teammate, Angela Maurer.
“I never saw a rescue boat. I saw nothing.’’
While a United Arab Emirates federation official said that Crippen likely died in “one second’’ because he was found still wearing his goggles, the autopsy report has not yet been released.
The international federation announced that a five-member panel of experts, two of them chosen by USA Swimming, will investigate the circumstances surrounding the death, and the American federation will conduct its own probe.
Led by 16-year-old Aliya Mustafina, who won the all-around plus three silvers, the Russians dethroned the Americans as global champs.
Still it was a successful meet for the US females, who won five medals, including Sacramone’s gold on vault, which gave her four on the apparatus and nine in her career.
Alexandra Raisman, the Needham teenager who qualified for the all-around, won a team silver and missed a bronze on floor by .05 points.
While the men managed only one medal — an all-around bronze from Jonathan Horton — it was their first in the event since Paul Hamm’s gold in 2003.
At the 2004 Olympics and 2006 global meet, Hong’s entry said she was born in 1985. In 2007, it was 1986. This time, it was 1989.
Both Hong and the PRK were kicked out of the competition.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.