Who is, or was, ‘Eric The Eel’?
‘Eric The Eel’ was the nickname given by the media to Eric Moussambani Malonga, who represented Equatorial Guinea in the 100 metres freestyle swimming event at the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia in 2000. Amazingly, Moussambani only taught himself to swim, in a 20-metre hotel pool in the capital city of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, after his entry to the Olympics, via a wild-card scheme. When he arrived in Sydney, he had never seen a long course, 50-metre swimming pool.
In his heat, at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre, Moussambani faced just two, unheralded opponents in the form of Karim Bare, representing Niger, and Farkhod Oripov, representing
Tajikistan. However, both men false-started and were disqualified, leaving Moussambani to race alone, against the clock, in the hope of achieving the qualifying time of 1 minute, 10 seconds. Suffice to say, he did not, eventually coming home in a time of 1 minute, 52.72 seconds, which, although a personal best, was the slowest time in Olympic history. Moussambani later admitted, ‘I have never been so tired in my life.’ Nevertheless, he became the most heralded Olympian in Sydney, famous not for his success, but his valiant failure.