Why the Slowest One Is the Essence of the Olympic Spirit
Eric Moussambani Malonga is a name you probably have never heard of. He received a standing ovation at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Representing Equatorial Guinea on a wildcard entry, Eric swam his heat of the 100 m freestyle and won by being the slowest and the fastest swimmer in the pool.
He was the only swimmer in the pool.
The wildcard selection for swimming was implemented by the Olympic committee to encourage smaller developing countries that don’t have swimming programs to develop the sport. When his country called upon him, Eric who knew nothing about swimming, learned it within a few months at a 15m by 15m hotel pool.
On the day of the race, all three of these wildcard swimmers would swim in this ceremonial heat. They had no chance of advancing to the next round, but they were there in the Olympics. Sadly though, due to their unfamiliarity with Olympic rules, two competitors representing the two other countries had false starts and were disqualified, and thus rendering Eric to be the only one left standing on the starting line.
Eric struggled to the finished line. It seemed quite funny, as it is not the level of competitiveness we’ve used to seeing in the Olympics. Yet it’s also quite sad and poignant.
Here’s the video of his swim, set to “Chariots of Fire”. I’ve edited it to resemble Visa’s line up of various Olympic themed GO WORLD commercials.