PARIS, July 20, 2008 (AFP) – True Olympic spirit is often found away from gold medallists with their agents and sponsorship deals — it is found in its purest sense in those that come last. Swimmer Eric “The Eel” Moussambani and Paula Barila Bolopa may have made a splash in Sydney but only the best memories will recall Abdul Baser Wasiqi, Pyambuu Tuul, Charles Olemus, Mala Sakonninhom, Luvsanlkhundeg Otgonbayar, Mira Kasslin and Samia Hireche.
These athletes, however, would have impressed modern Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin who famously claimed in his native French: “L’important n’est pas de gagner, mais de participer (The important thing is not to win, but to take part).”
Moussambani, Balopa, Wasiqi and co knew they would be nowhere near the winners’ podium but, had he been alive, de Coubertin no doubt would have shaken their hands warmly considering them Olympic heroes.
Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea at first created mirth with his choppy action, head held up water polo style, in stark contrast to the smooth efficiency of the fastest 100m freestyle competitors.
His time of 1:52.72sec was the slowest ever 100m time and slower even than the 200m world record.