Francis 'Fran' Crippen, a world open water championship bronze medalist, died during the marathon 10 km swimming World Cup race in the emirate of Fujairah.
Crippen went missing during the competition. A frantic search followed with other swimmers, divers and Coast Guard boats deployed to action.
After his body was found, adding to the shock and dismay of the whole incident, the other swimmers started weeping openly.
While officials in the United Arab Emirates pin overexertion as the cause, world governing body FINA maintains that the cause of death is still under investigation.
The award-winning swimmer in both pool and open water events grabbed a bronze in 10km race in 2009 world championships in Rome, followed by a 5km bronze in 2010 in Canada.
Crippen switched from freestyle swimming to open water swimming in 2006.
United States Olympic Committee has expressed condolences to Crippen"s family and friends.