Germantown Academy swim coach Richard Shoulberg brought his cell phone to bed with him this weekend awaiting a call from Fran Crippen, the world-class swimmer he’d trained since the seventh grade.
The call was supposed to come at 5 a.m. Saturday, once Crippen finished his last open-swim race of the season in Dubai. When the phone didn’t ring by 5:45 a.m., Shoulberg “realized something was wrong.” He didn’t envision the tragedy of Crippen dying during the race of still-unknown causes.
“Fran did anything he could to be able to chase his dream of making the Olympic team,” Shoulberg said of the 26-year-old swimmer who rebounded from a disappointing Olympic qualifying performance to become ranked second in the world. He comes from a family well known in swimming circles. The parent of another swimmer eventually called Shoulberg with news of Crippen’s death.
“I talked to him on Friday and he was excited about his last race,” Shoulberg said of Crippen, who served as a volunteer coach at Germantown Academy. “He could have potentially been No. 1 in the world after it. He was going to meet his girlfriend in Rome [on Sunday].”
“Once Fran’s body gets home, we’ll start trying to figure [it] out,” his sister Maddy Crippen said. “He was our hero.”