A Lost Passport Photo May Keep “Eric the Eel” from Athens

By Phillip Whitten

ATHENS, August 9. ONE of the biggest names to emerge from the 2000 Sydney Games — Eric "the Eel" Moussambani, from the West African country of Equatorial Guinea — may not be able to compete in Athens due to a lost passport photo, according to correspondents in Europe.

In 2000, Moussambani, nicknamed "Eric the Eel" by London Times writer and Swimming World contributor Craig Lord, won the hearts of the Australian swimming public and viewers worldwide, when he barely finished the 100-meter freestyle in 1:52.72 (more than seven seconds slower than Pieter van den Hoogenband's winning time for 200 meters).

Knowing a marketing opportunity when they saw one, Speedo executives promptly gave Eric a Speedo "Fastskin" swim suit and signed him to a sponsorship deal. During the next several years, Mpoussambani traveled the world doing interviews and launching products for Speedo.

A likable young man who told reporters in 2000 that he had taught himself to swim only nine months before the Sydney Games, practicing in a small hotel pool — one of only two pools in the country — Moussambani apparently lost a passport photo needed to complete his authorization to compete in Athens.

That lost passport may cost him Ell his trip to Athens.

"The Equatorial Guinea Olympic Committee told me if I wanted to go to Athens I had to be in my country with the rest of the athletes going to the Games," Moussambani said. Moussambani has been training in Spain.

"Since I got back they told me that I was short of a passport photograph and because of that they couldn't give me authorisation.

"I'm waiting and waiting. I want to demonstrate to the world that I can swim better. I've taken a minute off my time."

If Eric has, indeed, taken a minute off his time, that would mean he can swim the 100 meters in 52 seconds. That won't be fast enough to get him beyond the first round, but it would be a very respectable performance, indeed.

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