DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — United Arab Emirates swimming officials said Sunday that “overexertion” led to the death of U.S. national team swimmer Fran Crippen and denied reports that the American had a heart attack during a race the day before.
Race officials said a medical report has been completed, but declined to release it to the media Sunday.
The 26-year-old Crippen, from a family of prominent swimmers in suburban Philadelphia, died Saturday while competing in the FINA Open Water 10-kilometer World Cup at Fujairah, east of Dubai. He failed to finish and was found in the water two hours later, organizers said.
Swimmers complained of the warm water temperatures, but Ayman Saad, executive director of the UAE swimming association, played down heat as a factor, saying that the water temperature was 84 degrees at the start of the race. He also said that FINA rules only require a minimum water temperature and state nothing about a maximum.
All safety measures were in place including lifeguards, boats and divers, Saad said, and that FINA had signed off on everything before the race started.
“We are sorry that the guy died but what can we do. This guy was tired and he pushed himself a lot,” Saad said. “He went down 400 meters before the finish line.”
Crippen’s former swimming coach, Richard Shoulberg, said Crippen had told him in a recent telephone call that the water was 87 degrees.
Swimmers on Saturday complained of warmer than usual conditions and Fujairah police have opened an inquiry into Crippen’s death.
Swimmers were the first to respond when Crippen failed to arrive at the finish. Several returned to the water to search for him and were soon followed by police and coast guard divers. Crippen’s body was found just before the last buoy on the 2-kilometer triangular course, race organizers said.
He was rushed to shore and transported to Fujairah Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
FINA President Julio Maglione of Uruguay said he was told that after eight kilometers Crippen told his coach that he wasn’t feeling well.
“He continued and he was found in the deep of the water,” Maglione said from Acapulco, Mexico, where he was attending Olympic meetings.
Swimming officials in the UAE canceled the 15K open-water event that was scheduled to be held Oct. 27 at the same location, with swimmers having expressed concerns.
“We were not staying back for Wednesday’s race anyway,” said Ana Marcela Cunha, the overall champion in the women’s competition.
Competitors all described Saturday’s conditions as unusually hot, but expressed shock that Crippen had died during the race.
“I can’t even imagine how this could have happened to Fran,” Crippen’s teammate Alexander Meyer said.
Crippen was the silver medalist in the 10K at the Pan Pacific championships in August, earned a bronze medal in the 10K at the 2009 world championships, was national champion in the 5K in 2009, and won a gold medal in the 10K at the 2007 Pan American Games.
Crippen’s family is well-known in the swimming world. Maddy Crippen swam for Villanova and competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Claire Crippen was an NCAA All-American at Virginia, and Teresa Crippen currently swims for the University of Florida and is a member of the U.S. national team
Shoulberg, who coached Crippen at Germantown Academy, said Crippen had called him from Dubai recently, and talked about the Philadelphia Phillies’ playoff run and plans to visit Italy with his girlfriend. Crippen also told him the air temperature was around 100 degrees, Shoulberg said.
He said Crippen also had swum in water as cool as 62 degrees.
“That’s the nature of the sport, and he knew that,” Shoulberg said.
Crippen finished fourth in the 10K and fifth in the 5K at this year’s world championships. He competed in the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials.
On his Facebook page, he posted Thursday that he was “in Dubai for the final World Cup of the season and then off to Italy for vacation!”
The page now has many messages of condolence from friends and fellow swimmers.
“Fran you will be missed you were the best of the best,” said 2000 Olympic silver medalist Kristy Kowal.
AP Sports Writers Stephen Wilson in Acapulco and Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this report.