Lovable losers – the Olympic ideal or waste of space

MELBOURNE, July 6, 2008 (AFP) – The Olympic movement has a long history of loveable losers but debate rages over whether they embody the spirit of Games or are a distraction unworthy of competing alongside the world’s top athletes. Ski-jumper Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, swimmer Eric “the Eel” Moussambani and the Jamaican bobsleigh team all caught the sporting world’s attention at the Olympics, even though they never had a hope of winning a medal.

Despite the misgivings of Games officials, the wildcard system that allowed some of the worst performers in Olympic history to compete remains in place for Beijing and speculation has already begun about potential flops in the making.

Moussambani, from Equatorial Guinea, remains the highest profile loser to emerge at a summer Olympics following his inept but dogged performance in the pool at the Sydney Games in 2000.

Urged on by a roaring crowd and monitored closely by concerned lifeguards, Moussambani flailed his way to victory in a 100m freestyle heat after his only two rivals were disqualified for false starts.

Gasping for breath, he finished in 1:52.72, a minute slower than other heat winners.

He later revealed he had learned to swim only months before the Games