Sister Remembers Local Swimming Champ

A day after U.S. national team swimmer and Conshohocken native Fran Crippen died during an open-water race in the United Arab Emirates, his sister is speaking out.

“I just want everybody to know he was an awesome guy,” Maddy Crippen said.

Maddy Crippen, also an accomplished swimmer, spoke to NBC Philadelphia Sunday night in Center City as her family copes with their sudden loss. She says she found out about her brother’s death by phone early Saturday morning.

“I didn’t believe it because obviously your brother is a world class athlete and he is a world class swimmer. And to hear that he was in an accident around water makes it unbelievable.”

Twenty-six year-old Crippen, the United States Open Water champion, failed to finish the 10-kilometer marathon swimming World Cup held in Fujairah on Saturday. He was found in the water two hours later by deep-sea divers, about 400 meters from the finish, organizers said.

The cause of Crippen’s death is still under investigation. Published reports say the water temperatures were in the mid to hi 80’s, according to officials. Several swimmers complained of the warm water and were treated for exhaustion.

“What we know initially is that he exerted himself more than he could, that's what we know,'' said FINA President Julio Maglione of Uruguay, attending an International Olympic Committee conference in Acapulco, Mexico. Maglione said he was told that after eight kilometers Crippen informed his coach that he wasn't feeling well.

Crippen declined to comment about how her brother died but instead talked about his love for the sport, his desire to compete in the Olympics and her last conversation with him.

“I talked to him last Sunday and he was at the Phillies game. The last message I got from him was ‘I’m at the game, it’s awesome’.”

Crippen, who grew up in Conshohocken, comes from a family of swimmers including two other sisters. Maddy says her brother set a high standard for himself and believed other could do that as well.

“There will always be stories, there will always be pictures he will always be a part of us,” Crippen said.

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