Paula Barila Bolopa
Paula Barila Bolopa (born 12 October 1979), nicknamed 'The Crawler', is a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea. She was one of two Equatorial Guinean swimmers to compete at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the other being Eric Moussambani.
Following Moussambani's struggling but courageous performance in the men's 100 metres freestyle event, the media turned their attention to his female compatriot. According to The Telegraph, "the spectator gallery was almost full as the news spread that a female Eric was making an appearance." A correspondent for The Times reported:
- Paula Barila Bolopa, still dripping wet from her swim, was under siege. Tape recorders were being thrust in her face and an interpreter was translating her comments from Spanish for American television stations. Somebody passed her a mobile phone so she could talk live to a radio presenter in Madrid and when she was asked whether she had signed any autographs since fame embraced her, she furrowed her brow in indignation. “Muchos,” she said. She and Celebrity had quickly become fast friends.
Barila Bolopa competed in the women's 50 metres freestyle, and finished last in her heat with a time of 01:03.97, which was double the second-worst time, and reportedly the slowest time in Olympic history for that event. She received loud support and encouragement from spectators.
Barila Bolopa gained entry to the Olympics without meeting the minimum qualification requirements via a wildcard draw designed to encourage developing countries without expensive training facilities to participate. Equatorial Guinea has only two pools, neither of them Olympic-sized. She had never swum in a 50-metre pool before. After the race, she commented: "It's the first time I've swum 50 metres. It was further than I thought. I was very tired."
The BBC commented: "Bolopa and Moussambani have become two of the stars of the Sydney Olympics much like Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards became a hero at the 1988 Calgary Olympics for his brave but laughable attempts at ski-jumping." The Telegraph likewise commented that Barila had "recapture[d] the spirit of Eddie the Eagle". The Agence France-Presse reported that she had "gained Olympic hero status", and commented: "She brought out the spectators' affection for a courageous, have-a-go hero who dared to compete knowing she would probably be the worst-ever Olympian in that event."
Barila worked as a supermarket cashier at the time of the Games.
- Gjerde, Arild; Jeroen Heijmans, Bill Mallon, and Hilary Evans (2011). "Paula Barila Bolopa Biography and Olympic Results". Olympics. Sports Reference.com. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
- "Swimming: Next to Paula Eric the Eel is electric", Martin Johnson, The Telegraph, 7 November 2000
- "Trio of try-hards splash their way into our hearts", Oliver Holt, The Times, 22 September 2000
- Not counting Bahrain's Fatema Hameed Gerashi, who was disqualified but had taken 51.15.
- "Olympic-Size Freeloading", Joel Stein, Time, 2 October 2000
- "Swimming - day seven in pictures", BBC, 22 September 2000
- "Barila Bolopa paddles her way to Olympic stardom", Agence France-Presse, 21 September 2000
- "Heroic Losers", Agence France-Presse, 18 July 2008
- "'Paula the Crawler' sets record", BBC, 22 September 2000
- "Debut girl falls foul of gulf in international standards", The Guardian, 23 September 2000