Swimming World Presents – Eric “The Eel” Moussambani: The True Olympic Spirit

Swimming World November 2020 Cover - Eric the Eel Moussambani
A young Moussambani takes a break from the pool and surfs in the Atlantic Ocean near his home of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. [PHOTO BY SEAN GRANSWORTH, ALLSPORT]

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Eric “The Eel” Moussambani: The True Olympic Spirit

By John Lohn

Pierre de Coubertin developed the Olympic motto that stressed athletic prowess, but he also said, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games
is not winning, but taking part.” That description fit Eric the Eel Moussambani perfectly when he swam all by himself in Heat 1 of the men’s 100 meter freestyle at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and finished in slightly less than two minutes!

CITIUS. ALTIUS. FORTIUS. It is the Olympic motto, adopted in the late 19th century by Pierre de Coubertin, considered the founder of the modern Olympic movement. Translated from Greek, the motto stands for: Faster. Higher. Stronger.

From Johnny Weissmuller to Sergey Bubka to Pyrros Dimas, hundreds of athletes through the years have fit de Coubertin’s words, their performances etched in Olympic history. But in the case of Eric Moussambani, who made his lone Olympic appearance at the 2000 Games in Sydney, another motto would have been more appropriate: SLOW. SLOWER. SLOWEST.

There is no doubting the heart of Eric Moussambani, who was a 22-year-old in Sydney at the 2000 Olympic Games. He became the first swimmer to represent Equatorial Guinea at the Olympic Games.

He trained hard. He carried himself with honor. He put forth his best effort during his one race. But Moussambani was anything but an Olympic-caliber athlete. Instead, he was a token invitation by the International Olympic Committee to generate interest in various sports in developing countries, his homeland located on the western coast of Middle Africa.

The wildcard given to Moussambani to contest the 100 meter freestyle was in stark contrast to the berths awarded to the world’s leading aquatic nations, such as the United States and Australia. In those countries, only the top-two finishers in each event qualify for Olympic action, making their Trials cutthroat in nature. Through the years, the United States’ third-place finisher in some events would have contended for the Olympic podium…but instead was left home.

Moussambani didn’t have to deal with such a dilemma. Then again, he didn’t have to think about racing more than once, since advancing to the semifinal round of the 100 freestyle was never a possibility. Truthfully, the biggest question facing Moussambani was whether he could complete his two laps of the pool at the Sydney Aquatic Centre.

As Moussambani prepared for Sydney, he utilized the facilities and guidance that were at his disposal, which fell far short of Olympic level. While Moussambani conducted most of his training in a hotel pool—which was only 13 meters long— he also spent time in rivers and lakes. More, his coaching came from fishermen who tried to coordinate Moussambani’s arm and leg movements to prevent sinking! To suggest his preparation was not ideal would be an understatement.

Upon his arrival in Sydney, Moussambani was struck by the sights of a foreign city and the size of the Olympic Village. But nothing overwhelmed Moussambani like the Olympic pool, which was surrounded by seating for 17,500 spectators and would soon ask the novice swimmer to complete a down-and-back trip.

“When I saw the swimming pool for the first time, that was the first time I had seen a 50-meter pool,” Moussambani said. “I was so scared. The pool was so big for me. I wasn’t sure. My training time (before the Games) was at the same time as the United States. I would sit down and see how they trained because I didn’t have any technique. I just sat and watched and tried to learn from them. I didn’t have any experience how to dive and how to start. I had to ask people how to do it.”

 

To read more about Eric the Eel’s 2000 Sydney Olympic success,
check out the November 2020 issue of
Swimming World Magazine.
Click here to download now!

Swimming World November 2020 Cover - Allison Schmitt - A Legacy Much More Than Gold Medals[PHOTO CREDIT: CONNOR TRIMBLE]

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Swimming World Magazine November 2020 Issue

FEATURES

010 OPEN WATER SWIMMERS OF THE DECADE (2010-19)
by Andy Ross
Since the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Swimming World from naming Open Water Swimmers of the Year for 2020, the magazine, instead, takes a look at the top marathon athletes over the last 10 years.

015 HIGHLIGHTING ISHOF’S 1980 OLYMPIC EXHIBIT
by Bruce Wigo
As we mark the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic Games, much has been written and discussed about the impact on the athletes who were denied the opportunity to compete in Moscow. Lost in most of these discussions is the significance of the boycott to the Olympic movement, which is why, in 2014, the International Swimming Hall of Fame made it the subject of one of the largest permanent exhibits in its museum.

018 OLYMPIC HISTORY WITHIN REACH
by David Rieder
Despite the global pandemic, the Olympic postponement and a coaching change, Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri put together some of the best swimming of his career last summer in the 800 and 1500 meter freestyle as well as the 10K marathon. Come Tokyo 2021, he’ll be trying to become the first swimmer ever to capture Olympic gold in both the pool and open water events.

021 STILL SWIMMING STRONG
by Dan D’Addona
Throughout Allison Schmitt’s illustrious swimming career, the three-time Olympian and eight-time Olympic medalist has experienced success and has dealt with her share of struggles. Now 30, she remains goal-oriented and continues to be one of the world’s elite athletes.

026 THE TRUE OLYMPIC SPIRIT
by John Lohn
Pierre de Coubertin developed the Olympic motto that stressed athletic prowess, but he also said, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part.” That description fit Eric the Eel Moussambani perfectly when he swam all by himself in Heat 1 of the men’s 100 meter freestyle at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and finished in slightly less than two minutes!

COACHING

012 TOUGHEST WORKOUTS (Part 1)
by Michael J. Stott
Here’s a painful—but productive—sampling from yesteryear of some coaches’ toughest workouts ever.

036 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: DEVELOPMENT OF AN OPTIMAL MODEL FOR TECHNIQUE: PART IX—BODY BASE OF SUPPORT FOR BACKSTROKE
by Rod Havriluk
An optimal backstroke body base of support (BOS) depends on first mastering a level torso and then mastering torso rotation. An optimal BOS facilitates the arm motion to maximize propulsion.

038 SPECIAL SETS: A REALLY SPECIAL SET
by Michael J. Stott
Nov. 21, 1975: Mike Bruner’s 100 x 100 on 1:00!

042 Q&A WITH COACH LORI RIEGLER
by Michael J. Stott

043 HOW THEY TRAIN JACK ALEXY AND MEREDITH RIEGLER
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

035 DRYSIDE TRAINING: LET’S RACE
by J.R. Rosania
With COVID-19 being managed somewhat and new protocols being put in place, racing is slowly coming back. Here are some exercises that will help get your body ready to race.

JUNIOR SWIMMER

046 UP & COMERS: ALANA BERLIN
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COLUMNS & SPECIAL SECTIONS

008 A VOICE FOR THE SPORT

014 DID YOU KNOW: ABOUT HYDROMANIA?

029 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

045 THE OFFICIAL WORD

047 GUTTERTALK

049 PARTING SHOT

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