x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Fran Crippen anniversary: no international open-water meets for UAE

Swimming federation chief says it will not host the international event for several years after star died in 10km marathon off Fujairah.

The UAE Swimming Federation says it will be ‘too sad’ to host another international event for years, as it marks a year today since US swimming champion Fran Crippen (pictured) drowned in the Swimming World Cup off Fujairah.
The UAE Swimming Federation says it will be ‘too sad’ to host another international event for years, as it marks a year today since US swimming champion Fran Crippen (pictured) drowned in the Swimming World Cup off Fujairah.

FUJAIRAH // A year after the US swimming champion Fran Crippen drowned in Fujairah waters, the UAE Swimming Federation says it will not host another international event for "several years".

Crippen, the six-time US open-water champion, died a few hundred metres from the finish line of the 10-kilometre Marathon Swimming World Cup event a year ago today.

It was the first death at an event under the auspices of Fina, the body that governs international swimming.

Ayman Saad, the executive director of the UAE Swimming Federation, said the group would not host another international open-water event for "several years".

"We cannot move on from this sad moment," said Ayman Saad, the executive director of the UAE Swimming Federation. "We still live in this sad moment because we lost not only a great swimmer, but also a great person."

The UAE is no longer one of the seven venues for the 10km Marathon Swimming World Cup or Open Water Swimming Grand Prix.

A report from an investigation, released in April, cited dozens of "inadequately fulfilled" rules at the event in which Crippen died.

Speaking publicly for the first time on the issue, Mr Saad said the UAE was not dropped from the list of venues because of public reaction. He said the federation chose not to host an event out of respect for those at last year's race.

"If you ask them if they want to come back to Dubai, of course they will say no, but let them see what we have done and they will come one by one," Mr Saad said.

The report said regulations including those on liability insurance, having a medical officer on site and the proper authorising of a change of venue were among those inadequately fulfilled.

The investigators also found that water temperature probably exceeded 29°C.

Mr Saad declined to comment on the report, saying it would not be appropriate.

"We read it and in the end we could not say anything because it was a moment of sadness for us and for his family," he said. "It was not the moment to say we did this and this and this."

Mr Saad praised the new regulations and recommendations made by Fina and USA Swimming in reports on Crippen's death. These include a recommended maximum water temperature of 31°C in races exceeding 5km, minimum lifeguard qualifications and specifications for escort and safety boats.

Fina has since developed a Dh1.1 million sonar safety system that covers the 2.5km course and signals if a swimmer is more than a metre below water.

It took searchers two hours to recover Crippen's from the bay of the Fujairah Marina.

Mr Saad said swimming officials "woke up" after Crippen's death.

"Our sport is stronger," Mr Saad said. "I saw with my eyes a lot of security in Shanghai that never happened before, and attention to water temperature."

Even so, more than 20 swimmers dropped out of the 25km marathon swim in Shanghai last July as water temperatures reached 32°C.

USA Swimming recently voted to lower the recommended maximum to 29.5°C for US events.

Meanwhile, the UAE Swimming Federation has said it will focus on indoor swimming events.

The first national open-water competition organised by the federation since Crippen's death will be held in Abu Dhabi in December.

"Everything will be made according to the new rules and regulations," Mr Saad said. "We will go not only with the rules and regulations of Fina but we will go beyond that because it is the first event [since Crippen's death]."

He said there would be six supervisors on two boats for every group of 10 swimmers.

Such measures may restore the confidence of athletes in the UAE as an open-water venue, Mr Saad said.

 

azacharias@thenational.ae