|20 Memories of Fran Crippen
||[Oct. 26th, 2010|11:04 am]
This week we go a little different direction with this feature, talking to 20 friends, teammates and competitors of their memories of Fran Crippen, who passed away last week during an open-water race in Dubai, in which the investigation continues.
The last time I talked to Fran – and of course I had no idea it would be the last time – he thanked me for writing about his wonderful sister Claire (he even posted the link on his Facebook wall). Fran and I almost always talked about his amazing sister Maddy, a 2000 Olympian, whose driving skills we use to mock (didn’t work out so well for Fran – she made him walk home at least once!). He also had tremendous love for Teresa, fresh off her NCAA title for Florida and teammate on the National Team. Of course, he loved his parents. He also adored his coaches, and was as proud as anyone to be from Philadelphia, Pa.
1) Kalyn Keller, 2004 Olympian and former open-water competitor: “I cannot find words to describe how great of a man Fran is. I am a better person for having known him and I am so thankful for the memories we shared on our national team trips. His kindness and compassion is something special. There was never a dull moment when Fran was around. I think Fran and I drank Spain dry of their "cafe" at a World Cup meet in 2007... every day, 20 minutes before a grueling open water workout we'd meet in the little lobby and share the muddy delicious coffee, and like clockwork, we'd grab another cup right after practice. It was a great way to wash out the river taste and we got to talk about everything together, whether it was how long the workout was, bullfights, or what we wanted to do once we were done with swimming. We got to go to a bullfight together and even go kayaking where we wanted to push Coach John Dussliere over and knock him in the water for giving us such long workouts. Nobody on that trip will forget the song he made up about the waitress forgetting his eggs one morning... we weren't too happy about it since it was in our head for many hours during training! He was a great training partner, always encouraged everyone and ALWAYS had a smile on his face. He made me swim a lot faster when he would throw seaweed or scream and pretend he ran into a dead fish during workout - always scaring the girls! But it was hard not to laugh along once you heard him cracking up about it... I miss that. I will never forget Fran, he touched so many lives - more than we'll ever realize. I will never forget his smile and laughter - it was electric. I'll miss your laugh and your smile and your annoying songs Fran! Every cup of ‘Café’ I have, I will think of you.”
2) Davis Tarwater, 2009 World Team Member: “In the tapestry of my own life, Fran Crippen's influence was a prominent thread weaved into the fabric of my athletic career but also in my life outside the pool. Before I knew Fran personally, I looked up to him. In high school, we developed a great rivalry that instilled in us both a mutual respect. However, once I knew him personally after rooming with him at the 2001 Goodwill Games, I admired him not only for his athletic accomplishments marked by his unwavering toughness, but for his character. Fran was like a throwback to a different generation in the sport, where there existed no short cut to be taken, no training set to be unconquered and no mountain be left unclimbed. He was an exceptional individual who was kind to those around him, helped whomever he could and picked up any teammate who was down. This undoubtedly is a staggering loss for a family who has lost their son or brother, for those of us who have lost our friend and for the great number of young athletes who have lost their hero. However, because of the lives he touched so deeply, his legacy will certainly endure in a sport he helped to change for the better. We will miss you Fran.”
3) National Teamer Keri Hehn: “What can I say…Fran was an amazing person. Being a previous Nadador and also being on the Pan American and World Championship team with him, this is an unbelievable loss. Fran always had a smile on his face and was a positive force. He made everyone around him feel comfortable and inspired everyone that came into contact with him. To be so young and have so many things left unfinished is a tragedy. He was a family man and you could see that with his interaction with his sisters. He has touched so many people's lives, including mine, in such a positive way I just don't understand why God would take him. I pray for his family and friends.”
4) Olympian Kim Vandenberg: “My memory of Fran is and will always be... him with an honest smile on his face, mid laughter, enjoying a conversation he is having with friends and ultimately experiencing life to the fullest. His passion for people and for swimming was clear and contagious to those who knew him. He truly lived in the present and for that we can all learn from, rest in peace.
5) Emily Hanson, open-water teammate and National Team member: “I can’t point out one memory or give one comment to sum up everything that Fran meant to our open water team and me but I can tell you that with this tragedy our family is now missing a vital component. My best memories of Fran are walking down the beach while he is teaching 17 year-old Eva what is means when something is “chapping your ass”, the constant need to pass him the salt and pepper at every single meal, and the enormous smile on his face when he tells a story about his beloved Philadelphia or any member of his family. Like everyone knows, his passion, work ethic and competitive edge were unmatched but on top of all that he was an incredible human being who taught us so much about enjoying life, embracing opportunities and having dreams. We are going to miss him every time we dive into a new body of water. He taught us so much and cared for us in the most unselfish way a person could. It is not going to be the same not getting that look of determination and genuine wish of good luck before each and every race that he gave to each member of Team USA. We will love and miss him always.”
6) Micha (Burden) Shaw, Mission Viejo teammate, open-water teammate and close friend: “It is hard for me to think of one specific memory, especially trying to keep it within a paragraph! Every experience I had in Open Water I shared with Fran. I have been thinking about what memory I can share with you since yesterday and I just can't seem to pick ONE! I keep coming back to all the times Fran and I spent, just the two of us, at a cafe or restaurant talking. Fran had an amazing talent for a guy...He could talk for hours! I attribute this gift to the fact that he grew up with three amazing sisters! I benefitted from this gift on our countless World Cup adventures and training camps. We would sit together and talk for hours! He would keep me updated on all the swimming gossip – I never knew what was going on! – and we would talk about our Olympic dreams, our families and anything and everything that we could come up with. The last time I saw Fran we did just that. I picked him up at his hotel in Irvine after Pan Pacs and we went to a little pub to catch up. Fran was one of my best friends; we were there for each other through many challenging times and also for many triumphs. I'm going to miss him so much and I wish I could have one more hug and hear Fran say "It's okay little buddy, everything is going to be okay."
7) Dave Denniston, former National team teammate: “One of my fondest memories of Fran was in California at what I believe was the third Dave Denniston Relays event where we raised money to help pay for my medical bills and therapy. It was a very fun event where age-group swimmers were able to swim relays with Olympians. We had several relay events that day that were both standard and fun (inner tube relays, sprite relays, t-shirt relays). Several of the big names were there like Jason Lezak, Natalie Coughlin, Amanda Beard, just to name a few. Most of the kids stood in awe of the "superstars" they had read about in Splash or had seen on TV. But I remember the kids gravitating to Fran. He had given up Saturday morning workout to be there and showed up wearing his famous smile. I think he swam every relay that morning and several times I remember thinking he was the biggest kid in the pool. He gave up his time to help me out without thinking twice and I've always thought the world of him for doing so. Anytime I saw him on a pool deck or at a swimming function I found myself gravitating toward him like those little kids at that event. Fran is one of the people in my life that I have tried to emulate, not as an athlete – there's no chance! – but as a person. He gave a little bit of his time to help me out and now I appreciate that time with him more than ever.”
8) Alex Meyer, 2010 open water teammate of Fran’s: “Fran was fierce competitor, but he was also a compassionate teammate. On a couple occasions when I was struggling in a race, Fran would fall back behind the pack to check on me. One time was just three days after I had swam the 25k race at World Championships this year. We were racing in a 10k World Cup and Fran noticed I was swimming uncharacteristically. He stopped in the water and let me catch him. He asked if I was doing alright and he gave me one of his gel packs. A month later, I got very sick the day before the 10k at the Pan Pacific Championships. This time I was even farther behind the pack, but he did the same thing, actually swimming the opposite direction on the course to check on me, and then he let me draft off him as he pulled me back to the pack. Most athletes would take advantage of a competitor being in distress, but as much as I was a competitor, we were both USA, and he was selfless teammate. These actions are very telling of the kind of person Fran was. He was one of my best friends, he took me under his wing, and he made me a better person.”
9) Chloe Sutton, National Teamer, Mission Viejo teammate and long-time open-water standout: “Once a Nadadore, always a Nadadore and Fran will always be a part of our family here in Mission Viejo. As a coach and a swimmer he was a part of so many young peoples' lives and his picture can still be seen around our pool. I remember many wonderful memories with Fran on the pool deck, joking around with Coach Rose or encouraging the group. Fran was hilarious. He made me look forward to morning practice and the string of jokes and sarcastic comments that he initiated made the tough practices much easier to get through. One thing that I really remember about him is what a leader he was. No matter if it was me or Deni Cullom training in the lane next to him or the 5 and 6 year olds on the other side of the pool, we all looked up to and admired his leadership and positive attitude. When little kids would watch him with wide eyes, he'd always go out of his way to say "hey buddy!" and make them feel special. I feel very blessed to have known him and for him to have been a part of my life.
10) National Teamer and open-water standout Emily Brunemann: “I have so many great memories with Fran I do not know which one to talk about. I know many people will be stating memories about how amazing Fran was as a competitor, however this memory shows his fun and relaxed side as well. I remember our latest trip together Emily Hanson, Eva Fabian, Alex Meyer, Fran and myself were the group that traveled to Shantou, China and Hong Kong. During this trip Fran and Alex were making bets on everything possible haha. Fran and Alex had a bet going on that Alex could not blow a hardboiled egg out of the shell. Alex had seven days to do it and if Alex did, Fran had one opportunity to do it. We would film every day to see if Alex could do it. It took Alex seven days to get the egg out of the shell and Fran had one chance and he did it. We all started cracking up, the whole restaurant started staring at us. These type of moments were happening all the time and they kept everyone relaxed and having fun during competitions. Alex and Fran joking back and forth and Hanson, Eva, and I just laughing. Fran was someone who knew how to motivate others to another level. He was someone who was loved by his competitors and it was evident when we traveled to open water competitions. He was not only a son, brother, and friend to many but a role model and hero to many more. Fran will truly be missed and will always be remembered for everything he did whether it was winning races, motivating others, or joking around to keep things light hearted. The open water community has lost not only an amazing ambassador for the sport but an absolutely wonderful man. I know the memory is silly but these were things that I remember so much about Fran. It was always Fran, Alex (Meyer), (Emily) Hanson, and I hanging out together and we were always laughing and joking around. It is what made trips so much fun. These past two days have been two of the hardest days for me and I am hoping it will get better I just don't know how to grasp these situations and don't know if I will ever truly accept the fact that he is gone. I look forward to reading these memories about Fran and I hope it will give comfort to those who were close to him. I am hoping it will for me.”
11) National team teammate Andrew Gemmel: “I couldn't have asked for a better friend or mentor in the open water community. The memory that most stands out to me was World Championships in Rome. It was my first big international open water competition, and the learning curve in the sport can sometimes be rather steep. As a rival competitor, it would have been easy for Fran to just do his own thing. However, Fran always made sure to go out of his way to point things out to me and help me figure out how everything worked. I just think that’s a microcosm of how Fran was; he was always so selfless and giving. That’s something that I'll always try to carry with me.”
12) Erica Rose, long-time friend of Fran and open-water pioneer: “I've been thinking about Fran all weekend and when I received your email and tried to sit back and think about one specific memory to share with the swimming community, I had a hard time. All of the bits and pieces of the memories I have of Fran are melding together so that the image I have of him in my mind encompasses all of the characteristics and qualities I saw in him. Fran was motivated... and motivating. He was a phenomenal leader and a dedicated teammate. He worked hard and cared so much about the sport and about other athletes. He was focused but remained laid back and relaxed in the face of pressure and tension. Fran was a role model in every sense of the term. My most recent and vivid memory of Fran is from a few weeks ago. Fran and I were the two athlete representatives on the Open Water Steering Committee at the USA Swimming Convention in Dallas. After a full day of meetings, we went out to dinner to relax and catch up. He was leaving the next morning to head home - he needed to be where he could continue training for the last few 10K World Cup races of the season. Fran told me about his upcoming trip to Asia and the Middle East. He was looking forward to the races, of course, and he was eager to face his competition and continue to learn and grow as an athlete, but he was also really excited about the week he would spend with Caitlin, his girlfriend, in Italy after his final swim in Dubai. I could see him glowing a little bit when he talked about her and it thrilled me to see my friend so happy in the life he had worked so hard to create for himself. Fran dedicated himself to his sport and to the people he loved. He was a phenomenal athlete, a loving brother and son and a truly amazing friend. I miss my friend.”
13) Haley Anderson, National Teamer, open water, and USC standout: “Fran Crippen really was a mentor for me and really helped me get into open water. He was so fun to be around and made everything enjoyable. I was very fortunate to get to spend a lot of time with Fran and to get to know him this summer. And this summer at Open Water Worlds in Canada I was beyond nervous for the 25K, since I had only done one previous open water swim, but his advice and motivation really helped me. He was always open to sharing his knowledge and experience of open water swimming with anybody and everybody. He taught me so much not only about swimming and open water but to always have a good attitude and outlook on everything you do. Fran was there for me after the 10K at Pan Pacs to cheer me up, he called me the day after to make sure I was okay and like he always did, to encourage me to keep doing my best and be happy. It really meant a lot to me to have him go out of his way like that and think of me, but that wasn’t out of the ordinary for Fran, he always went out of his way to be kind and to encourage the people around him. His kind and uplifting words really heartened me to look on the positive side. His altruistic ways was just one of the many great qualities that Fran possessed. Thank you Fran for everything you have done not only for me but also for the whole swimming community.”
14) Charlie Houchin, distance swimmer and National Team member: “Growing up several years behind Fran, I tried to chase his accomplishments--enough cannot be said about the passion with which he trained and competed. In recent years, I was able to attend training camps with him and Pan Pacs this August. What a big personality. What a great guy.”
15) Chad LaTourette, distance standout and open-water standout, National Team: “I have already thought a lot about all the special times I had with Fran, but the most special to me was on the last night of Olympic trials in 2008. I remember sitting in my hotel room feeling sorry for myself after the 1500 finals. Later that night, Fran rolled into my room with some friends. We talked into the late hours of the night not only about swimming but about life in general. He wouldn't allow me to feel sorry for myself that night. I always found myself anticipating the next thing he was going to say because it was just so entertaining, funny, or profound. That's just the way he was. I always thought of him and will continue to remember him as my big brother, and I'm going to miss him more than words can say.”
16) Kristy Kowal, 2000 Olympian and fellow Pennsylvanian: “I had the privilege of swimming at GA/Foxcatcher in the summer times when I came home from college. After traveling to Long Island for a meet, the Crippens opened their home up to me and let me stay with them the night we returned from the meet. My favorite, favorite, favorite memory of Fran is waking up in the Crippen household to 11-year-old Fran asking me if I wanted him to make me pancakes for breakfast. Here I am, going to be a sophomore in college, and 11 year old Fran made me pancakes for breakfast! Two summers ago I ran up and down the beaches of Rome looking for him as he swam his races at Worlds so excited to see a face from home when I was living over there. The Crippens are a truly amazing family that I have had the honor of not only swimming with but being friends with and my heart goes out to them.”
17) Caroline Burckle, 2008 Olympian: “He was just a world class guy, one of those guys that everyone loved in the USA swimming community. Having a brother (Clark) in this sport just made me realize how important family is. The closeness of their family cannot ever be matched. I remember Pan Ams in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, Teresa and Fran were on the same team together with me. It just made me smile to see how close they were all the time, and how they would joke with each other and give each other a hard time jokingly, just as brother as sister do ;) So happy I got to be on teams with both of them throughout the years. He never ceased to bring light to a room full of people.”
18) Kirsten Groome, open-water U.S. teammate: “I swam with Fran on the national team for open water. We went on a lot of trips together. He was always like the older brother on the trips. Fran was a quiet guy and he let his swimming speak for him. He was definitely one of the greatest and strongest racers I have ever seen. He never gave up. This is very devastating to not only his family but all of the OW (open water) swimmers that knew him. He will be greatly missed.”
19) Olympian and Mission Viejo veteran Larsen Jensen: “While I'm deeply saddened by the passing of my friend Fran, I can't help but recall the amazing memories he left us. Obviously his athletic accomplishments speak for themselves but what I will remember most is his up-beat attitude and character. I'm sad to have lost my friend but I find comfort in the words of George Patton, "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived." I am very thankful to have known Fran and I believe that every life he touched has been greatly enriched. I'll miss you buddy.”
20) U.S. open-water coach Catherine Vogt: “It was an honor and pleasure to work with Fran over the past years....he will always be remembered for his athletic prowess and accomplishments; but there is so much more that we will all miss, and that is his character. I can recall so many moments at various open water events where Fran showed his passion for the sport of swimming, love for his country and respect for others. At the 2009 Open Water World Championships in Italy, Fran literally made his mark on open water at the highest level - with medals and with fans, competitors, volunteers and teammates. His leadership, perseverance, and respect for others will always resonate with me as a coach. He was the type of person every coach dreams of working with....yet, what I will remember MOST about that trip were the times away from the ocean and pool-eating lunch at an Italian Trattoria with Fran, Coach Shoulberg and Paul Asmuth. And enjoying a daily cappuccino with him while talking about life, races, and school. And I remember Fran joining Jeremy (Vail) and me on our daily runs through the streets of Ostia, kicking our butt of course. Those are the moments when you realize what will be missed the most-Fran's love for life. He has clearly touched so many people and I am honored to have been part of his world.”