Fran Crippen died doing what he loved: swimming.
But on that tragic day — Oct. 23, 2010 — the conditions were anything but optimal for doing so.
A Germantown Academy graduate from Conshohocken, Crippen was off the coast of Dubai, participating in the final open-swim race of his season.
He was a 26-year-old All-American and a six-time national champion aspiring to qualify for the 10K race at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The goal seemed within reach, his Germantown Academy coach Richard Shoulberg said.
Even in peak physical condition, hot air-and-water temperatures contributed to Crippen’s death, the official cause of which was drowning by asphyxiation. His body would be found several hundred yards from the finish line after an hours-long search.
Grief has given way to a push for open-swim safety in Crippen’s memory. It has also inspired his family, friends and the swim community to ensure his death has an impact.
Among many things that the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation hopes to accomplish is providing support for athletes “with aspirations to attain the highest levels,” but need financial boosts to do so, according to Crippen’s sister Maddy, herself a renowned swimmer.
“It is the mission of the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation to empower and protect individuals as they elevate themselves in pursuit of their lifelong dreams,” reads the FCEF website.
A local fundraising effort
This weekend, the Foundation has its sights set on Broad Street. Specifically, the Broad Street Run in which 100 people will participate as “Team Fran.” Maddy Crippen said the initial goal was for each member to raise $100, a goal they surpassed.
With a “Work the Dream” mantra, the run is their first “Team Fran” event.
“Since the Foundation has no overhead — it’s all volunteers and family members — the money they raised goes directly to athletes training for the Olympics this year. It’s the financial help they need to get by,” Maddy Crippen said Wednesday. “We’re hoping to continue it forever.”
On Sunday, the 100 runners will sport T-shirts reading “Team Fran” on the front and “Bring It On, Broad Street” on the back.
When the race is over, they’ll walk down to McFadden’s Ballpark, at Citizen’s Bank Park for a post-race celebration.