Eric Moussambani

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Eric Moussambani
Personal information
Full nameEric Moussambani Malonga
Born (1978-05-31) 31 May 1978 (age 44)
Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
CountryEquatorial Guinea
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)50 m freestyle: 27.9h NR (2004)
100 m freestyle: 56.9h NR (2004)

Eric Moussambani Malonga (born 31 May 1978) is an Equatoguinean swimmer. Nicknamed Eric the Eel by the media, Moussambani won brief international fame at the 2000 Summer Olympics for an extremely unlikely victory. Moussambani, who had never seen an Olympic-sized swimming pool before, swam his heat of the 100 m freestyle on 19 September in the unprecedentedly slow time of 1:52.72.[1] This was the slowest time in Olympic history by far, and Moussambani had trouble finishing the race, but he won his heat after both his competitors were disqualified due to false starts. Although Moussambani's time was still too slow to advance to the next round, he set a new personal best and an Equatoguinean national record.[2] He later became the coach of the national swimming squad of Equatorial Guinea.[3]


Moussambani gained entry to the Olympics without meeting the minimum qualification requirements via a wildcard draw designed to encourage participation by developing countries lacking full training facilities. Pieter van den Hoogenband won in a time of 48.30 seconds (setting a world record of 47.84 in the semi-finals); Moussambani took more than twice that time to finish (1:52.72). "The last 15 metres were very difficult", Moussambani said. Because the other two swimmers in his heat made false starts and were thus disqualified, he won the heat unopposed.

Before coming to the Olympics, Moussambani had never seen a 50-metre-long (160 feet) Olympic-size swimming pool. He took up swimming eight months before the Olympics and had practiced in a lake, and later a 12-metre swimming pool in a hotel in Malabo,[4] that he was only given access to between 5 and 6 am.[5]

Moussambani's performance generated spectator and media interest in Paula Barila Bolopa, the only other Equatoguinean swimmer at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Bolopa competed in the women's 50 metres freestyle event, struggling to finish the race with a time of 1:03.97. In setting a record for the slowest time in Olympic history for that event, she also achieved major celebrity status.[6][7]

In 2001, Moussambani competed in the 50 metres freestyle at the 2001 World Aquatics Championship in Fukuoka, Japan, finishing 88th out of 92 athletes. He set a new Equatorial Guinean record for the distance. He was the first male athlete in the nation's history ever to participate in the event.[8]

Despite eventually lowering his personal best in the 100 metres freestyle to under 57 seconds,[9] Moussambani was denied entry into the 2004 Olympic Games due to a visa bungle.[10] He did not take part in the 2008 Summer Olympics.[11] In March 2012 he was appointed coach of the national swimming squad of Equatorial Guinea.[12]

Similarly acclaimed athletes[edit]

In subsequent Olympic Games, international media occasionally referred to Moussambani's potential successors—athletes who might record spectacularly poor times. Before the 2008 Summer Olympics, media in several countries—including Australia, Denmark, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom—suggested that Stany Kempompo Ngangola, a swimmer from DR Congo, would be the Olympics' next "Eric the Eel".[13][14][15][16][17] The media also described ni-Vanuatu sprinter Elis Lapenmal and Palestinian swimmer Hamza Abdu as "potential successors to Moussambani".[18] During the Games, Cook Islands swimmer Petero Okotai compared himself to "Eric the Eel" upon recording a disappointing time in his event.[19] In the 2016 Olympic Games, Ethiopian swimmer Robel Habte was dubbed "Robel the Whale" after finishing half a lap behind his competitors in the 100-meter freestyle.[20]

During the 2009 IAAF World Championships, various media around the world, including La Nación and The Daily Telegraph, described American Samoan sprinter Savannah Sanitoa as "the new Eric 'the Eel' Moussambani".[21][22] London 2012 Olympic rower Hamadou Djibo Issaka of Niger was compared to Moussambani for his times of 8:25.56 in the 2000 meter men's single scull qualifying heat and 9:07.99 in the E Semi-finals.[23][24] Both times were over a minute off the next closest competitor in each race. Moussambani's exploits also triggered comparisons to the 1988 Winter Olympics, when both British ski-jumper Eddie the Eagle and the Jamaican bobsled team became objects of interest and amusement due to their improbable participation in their sports.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lord, Craig (19 September 2000). "Courage on the blocks". Sydney Olympics 2000: Swimming News Archive. Retrieved 9 May 2008. Moussambani would plough a lonely lane for his finest 1mins 52.7 sec, though it felt like an hour. Equatorial Guinea's aquatic answer to Eddie the Eagle – Eric the Eel – churned the lane in which Ian Thorpe had raced to a silver medal in 1 min 45 sec over double the distance the day before.
  2. ^ Wallis, Holly (8 August 2012). "London 2012: The Olympic also-rans". BBC News. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
  3. ^ Decent, Tom (28 August 2020). "'I used to be a very shy guy': What Sydney Olympics cult hero Eric the Eel did next". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  4. ^ "Olympian from the Equator wins at a crawl", The Telegraph, 20 September 2000
  5. ^ "African novice makes big splash," BBC News, 19 September 2000
  6. ^ "Barila Bolopa paddles her way to Olympic stardom" Archived 10 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Agence France-Presse, 21 September 2000
  7. ^ "'Paula the Crawler' sets record", BBC, 22 September 2000
  8. ^ "9th FINA World Swimming Championships:Heats Results Sunday July 22 – Swimming Day 1". FINA. 22 July 2001. Archived from the original on 24 October 2004. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  9. ^ Brown, Alex (6 August 2004). "Struggling to keep himself afloat". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 May 2001. Despite cutting his personal best for the 100m from 1 minute 52.72 seconds in Sydney to under 57s today, a sponsorless, near-broke Moussambani fears that failure to compete in Athens will force him into retirement.
  10. ^ "Eric 'the Eel' misses Games". BBC Sport. 9 August 2004. Retrieved 31 May 2001. Eric 'the Eel' Moussambani's chances of competing at the Athens Olympics have been scuppered by problems over his application form. Officials were unable to locate his passport photograph, preventing him from competing for Equatorial Guinea.
  11. ^ "Famously slow swimmer Eric Moussambani set for Olympic return as Eq. Guinea coach". 30 March 2012.
  12. ^ Eric Moussambani nuevo entrenador del equipo nacional de natación, Guinea Ecuatorial Press, 10 March 2012.
  13. ^ "Mød Stany the Stingray" Archived 18 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Ekstra Bladet, 15 August 2008
  14. ^ "En Sydney fue Mussambani; en Pekín, el congoleño Ngangola", La Nacion, 15 August 2008
  15. ^ "Move over Eddie the Eagle and éric the Eel" Archived 21 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine, The Gazette, 15 August 2008
  16. ^ "Stany the stingray", The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 August 2008
  17. ^ "'The Snail' takes up where 'The Eel' left off", The Independent, 15 August 2008
  18. ^ "Lovable losers – the Olympic ideal or waste of space" Archived 16 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine, AFP, 6 July 2008
  19. ^ "Games also mean coming in last", International Herald Tribune, 23 August 2008
  20. ^ "This Ethiopian Olympic swimmer has become an internet sensation after finishing half a lap behind his rivals", Business Insider, 10 August 2016
  21. ^ "World Athletics: shot-putter Savannah Sanitoa overshadows Usain Bolt's sprint exploits". The Daily Telegraph. 16 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  22. ^ "Sanitoa, la nueva Moussambani". La Nación (in Spanish). 17 August 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  23. ^ Issaka The Otter: Novice from Niger is new Eddie The Eagle after super-slow sculls Steve Anglesey, The Mirror (London). 29 July 2012.
  24. ^ 'Sculling Sloth' back on water at London Olympics. AP 31 July 2012.

External links[edit]

Olympic Games
Preceded by Flagbearer for  Equatorial Guinea
Sydney 2000
Succeeded by