Harvard swimmer competes in memory of friend in Olympic swimming marathon
Alex Meyer, the only American to swim in the 10 kilometer Olympic marathon, completed a grueling swim and marked another milestone on a grueling journey that started back in Walden Pond. The 24-year-old Harvard graduate placed 10th out of 25 swimmers after completing the swim in 1:50:48.2, but perhaps more significantly, he made the dreams he and training partner Fran Crippen had come true simply by competing in the event.
Crippen was not there in person to see Meyer swim the Serpentine in Hyde Park; the 26-year-old drowned during the 10km World Cup race in the United Arab Emirates on Oct. 23, 2010. Meyer was the first to notice Crippen was missing, as he had been watching from the sidelines while recovering from an emergency appendectomy just weeks before. Meyer was at the race to support his friend, but instead, Meyer led a group of swimmers in trying to find Crippen, whose body was located after a 90-minute search just 500 yards from the shore.
An autopsy ruled that Crippen died from drowning and heat exhaustion. The conditions were difficult that day – the water abnormally warm and communication from the swimmers to the shore lacking. Several swimmers were treated for heat exhaustion after the race, and many complained after the race about inadequate safety measures that might have cost Crippen his life.
Meyer has moved on since Crippen’s death in the only way he could — by carrying Crippen’s dreams on his own shoulders and swimming on. He brings a photo of Crippen with him everywhere he travels. The two had talked before Crippen’s death about swimming in the London Olympics, and for Meyer, a spot on the US Olympic team was non-negotiable.
“Aside from the fact that I myself wanted to be on the Olympic team, I wanted to make Fran proud, and his family and friends,” Meyer said in an ESPN article.
Meyer has worked tirelessly not only to make the team, but to swim despite serious injuries. In January, Meyer crashed his bicycle while going out for some ice cream and broke his collarbone in two places, an injury that required surgery. The swimmer was not allowed to work out for eight weeks, and once he was finally back in the water, he made up for lost time by extending his workouts past what his coaches asked of him.
All of that hard work did not end in a medal for Meyer, but placing 10th in a race among the 25 best open water swimmers in the world is nothing Meyer – or Crippen – could be ashamed of.