OMAHA, Neb. -- Teresa Crippen entered the Prudential Center Friday night seeded third in the 200-meter butterfly final at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. And in this meet’s finals, third is no different than last, so she knew what she had to do.
Unfortunately, that meant beating either Cammile Adams, America’s top-ranked flyer, or Kathleen Hersey, a 2008 Olympian in the same event, in order to secure a trip to London.
Crippen finished fourth.
“It’s not what I wanted,” said the Florida All-American who just finished her senior year last month.
Maybe not, but Crippen’s inspirational run to the championship heat is something she will always remember for no other reason than the life-altering tragedy she can never forget.
It’s been less than two years since her older brother died during an open-water swimming World Cup in the United Arab Emirates on October 23, 2010. Fran Crippen, one of the most popular and respected competitors in the international swimming community, had won a bronze medal in the 2009 World Championships and by all accounts would have been favorite to make this U.S. team for the 2012 Games.
Instead, it was Teresa swimming in the memory of her brother, with the weight of his loss making her churn and chop the water all the more.
“It’s hard not to feel that every single day,” she said. “I tried to put it behind me for this meet, but it’s a weight I’ll have to bare the rest of my life.”
Her family, from Conshohocken, Pa., was among the sold-out crowd of 14,103. The Crippens are Olympic trials veterans. They were there when sister Maddy, the oldest of four siblings, earned a spot on the U.S. team in 2000, when she went on to finish sixth in the 400-meter individual medley. They were at the trials in ’04 and ’08 for Fran, and Thursday cheered Teresa along with a rowdy band of Florida faithful.
As the 200 fly competitors climbed onto the starting blocks, a shout came from the crowd.
“Go Teresa! Go Gators!”
Off she went.
Crippen was in fourth at the first touch, third at the second, but lost ground to Adams (first in 2:06.52), Hersey (second in 2:07.72) and Kim Vandenberg (2:08.99) in the final 100 meters.
She finished in 2:09.45, some three seconds off her personal-best of 2:06.93.
“It felt all right, but I definitely wanted to be faster -- and I know I could have been,” Crippen said. “I’ve done everything I can over the past two years to get ready for this race. I lost it in the pool.”
“Teresa is a great competitor,” said USA coach Gregg Troy, also her coach at Florida. “She’s had a long 18 months and she’s handled it really well.”
Her UF coaches and teammates helped her along the way. Crippen, 22, credited her Florida connections, as well as her family and club coach Dick Shoulberg of Germantown Academy, with, first, getting her back in the water after her brother’s tragic death, then helping to this point of her senior year.
“I wouldn’t have been in the pool the last two years” without them, said Crippen, who is entered in Saturday’s 200-meter back, but may have swam her final race Friday night. “At least now, I’m swimming with a smile. This sport has given me a lot ... and I’m just thankful.”