#30MostSwimfluential: Fran Crippen

Photo Courtesy: TYR

Who is Fran Crippen?

  • An American long distance swimmer whose tremendous career and tragic death has brought attention to the marathon swimming community.
  • Started swimming at the age of 6, following in his older sisters footsteps. He trained under Richard Shoulberg at Germantown Academy, and went on to swim for the University of Virginia where he was an 11-time All American.
  • At the 2003 Pan American Games, Crippen won two individual medals, silvers in the 400 and 1500 freestyle.
  • In 2006, Crippen proved his prowess in open water races, when he earned a silver medal in the 10 km open water swim at the Pan Pacific Championships. He went on to garner multiple open water awards, including a bronze medal in the 10 km open water race at the 2009 World Aquatics Championships.
  • On October 23, 2010, Crippen was competing in the last race of FINA’s 2010 10K series in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. The water was an incredibly warm 87 degrees, and the outside temperature was 100 degrees. Crippen complained to his coach partway through the race of feeling unwell but continued on. His body was found several hours later, and his death has been attributed to the warmth of the water.
  • Crippen’s tragic death has brought much-needed attention to the lack of regulations in open water events, and nearly five years later, dialogue continues to ensure the safety of every athlete. The Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation is a nonprofit was founded in his name and works to support athletes while they pursue their dreams. The foundation also advocates for the increase in supervision of open water races and education of support staff to protect every athlete who enters an open water race.

How did he influence the swimming community?

Crippen’s influence on the swimming community was and is profound. Known to be an amazing teammate who supported those around him, Crippen proved often that he would put his own goals on the line to help his teammates. Coach Shoulberg shared a story of the time that he sacrificed his own race to ensure the safety of a teammate in the 2010 Pan Pacific meet. Realizing that his friend had fallen behind and seemed to be struggling, Crippen turned around and waited until help came, before going on to just miss winning the gold. Crippen’s death has inspired probing conversation and advocacy to ensure the safety of every open water swimmer. The swimming community honors his life and death, and has founded the Fran Crippen TYR Swim Meet of Champions, which has been taking place annually since 2013 as well as supporting the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation.

*USA Swimming and Speedo invited the swimming community to help celebrate their 30 years of partnership by voting for the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming Throughout the Past 30 Years.” Votes were cast through social media with the hashtag #30MostSwimfluential and the final vote came from a panel of 10 judges selected by USA Swimming and Speedo. All 30 nominees have had a powerful impact on the swimming community. Many are recognizable names, but some have remained unsung heroes of the sport. Swimming World will profile each swimfluential person over the course of the week.