I am delighted to share, in collaboration with Educate Magis, the second episode of Sportingly+, titled: “Eric Moussambani … A Story of Determination, Courage and Excellence”. In this episode, we will bring you a story that truly represents the idea of the Olympic Games. This story is about Eric Moussambani also known as Eric the Eel of Equatorial Guinea, a country in central Africa. Eric participated in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. This story is actually one of my personal favorites. Read more below!
Sportingly+ is a series of videos that tell stories from the world of sports that highlight the values and positivity of sports. Sports can teach values such as fairness, team building, equality, discipline, inclusion, perseverance, and respect. Sport has the power to provide a universal framework for learning values.
We invite you to use this and the other videos of this series as resources in your classroom! To watch this and other videos of the series click here
Eric Moussambani … A Story of Determination, Courage and Excellence
In this episode, we will bring you a story that truly represents the idea of the Olympic Games. This story is about Eric Moussambani also known as Eric the Eel of Equatorial Guinea, a country in central Africa. Eric participated in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. This story is actually one of my personal favorites.
So, in the Olympics, countries that fail to produce athletes who meet qualification standards are granted “wildcards”, which allow them to enter the competition without actually meeting the regular Olympic qualification standards. This is to encourage the participation of developing countries lacking full training facilities. Eric Moussambani was just 22 years old from Equatorial Guinea when he gained entry to Sydney Olympics in 2000 via a wildcard.
Eric found his passion for swimming shortly after high school. At the time, he did not know how to swim, but he knew that it was a sport that he wanted to pursue. He had never seen a swimming pool before. Until he found a 13-meter hotel swimming pool that he only had access to three hours a week. On days he could not use the pool, he trained in rivers and the sea, with the local fisherman guiding him on how to use his legs and arms to stay afloat.
After about eight months of swimming, he gained entry into the 2000 Summer Olympics. For the first time, he traveled outside his country on the way to Olympic Games in Sydney. It took about three days with several layovers for Eric to reach Sydney, Australia from his country.
It was in Sydney at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre he saw an Olympic size or an international standard swimming pool for the first time. So just imagine yourself, you are going to compete at the biggest stage of sports and you are seeing the 50 meters swimming pool for the first time at the Games. Definitely, not an easy environment to be in at all.
To make things worse, in the run-up to the Olympics, Eric had been mistakenly informed that he would be swimming only 50m and he had trained accordingly. On his arrival at the Games, he discovered the discipline in which he was entered was twice that distance, it was 100 meters, a distance that he had never attempted in life.
In the days leading up to the event, Eric trained simultaneously with the American swimming team, he used to sit and watch the US swimmers and try to learn their techniques. He also went around to the swimmers or trainers for advice. Some helped him some didn’t. A South African coach, who first double-checked if Eric was really an athlete competing at the Olympics, once he realized that Eric was really there to compete, helped Eric by not only teaching him some techniques but gave him a proper swim brief and goggles. I could not find the name of the coach. If you happen to know the name of the South African coach please mention it in the comment section. The coach practiced the values of the Olympic Games in a very true sense. He respected Eric, taught him as a friend, and helped him excel to be a better swimmer.
On the D-day … September 19, 2000, Eric came out for the heats of 100 men’s freestyle with Nigeria’s Karin Bare and Tajikistan’s Farkhod Oripov. His fellow competitor were disqualified for making a false start. He had to complete the heats all alone.
Well, he completed the first 50 m with all his energy. Then he struggled to complete the next 50 metres. His legs became stiff, he gave an impression that he was going nowhere. But still he was determined to touch the finish line and he never gave up. More than 17000 people in the crowd present that day cheered for Eric and encouraged him to finish the race. His lungs were burning with pain but he fought through it… touched the wall and clocked in 1:52.72 second … well on timings he finished 71st of as many competitors. This timing was also the slowest timing in by anybody in the history of the Olympic Games.
You must be wondering why am I talking about the slowest swimmer in Olympic Games and his race. But this is actually a story of EXCELLENCE, COURAGE and DETERMINATION. It is a story of not man finishing last, It is the story of not giving up and giving the best he could, fighting it out with all he had. It must have been the slowest timing in the Games but it was Eric’s personal best.
As Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics pointed out “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well”
A lot of people would have given up. But Eric motivated himself, not always winning is being the best but sometimes being the best you can. This holds in every sphere of life. You need to fight it out yourself and better yourself every day.
The story of Eric Moussambani did not end in Sydney. By 2004, Eric had halved his personal best time to 56.9 seconds. And by 2006, he swam it in 52.18 sec, that is his best time ever. Unfortunately, he was unable to compete in Athens during the 2004 Olympics due to a passport issue.
We hope that you liked this story of Eric Moussambani. Write to us if this story inspired you. If you happen to have a sports story or know about a story that can highlight the values and positivity of sports please send it to us at TimeOutTalkies@gmail.com, and we will story tell it on your behalf.
Keep following SPORTINGLY + on Educate Magis! Till then see you at our next story!
About the author: My name is Rahul Mukherji, and I have the privilege of serving on the Managing Committee of St. Lawrence High School and in the Governing Body of the St. Lawrence Old Boys’ Association (SLOBA) in Kolkata, India. Additionally, I am honored to be a member of the St. Xaviers College Calcutta Alumni Association (SXCCAA). I am also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) certified Master Trainer for IOC’s Olympic Values Education Programme.