Vol. 5 Num 75 Tue. August 10, 2004  

Athens 2004
'Eric The Eel' will be missing

A bureaucratic bungle will keep Eric 'The Eel' Moussambani, who won hearts at the Sydney Olympics with his slow but dogged performance in the swimming pool, from a repeat Olympic performance in Athens.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Saturday that Moussambani was devastated after the Equatorial Guinea Olympic Committee failed to submit his accreditation to Athens, making him ineligible to compete.

The committee had been unable to find his passport photo, the paper reported.

"I don't know what to do, there is disappointment now," Moussambani told the newspaper.

Moussambani had been training in Spain when he was told to return home.

"They told me I have to come back to my country so I can go with the other athletes to Athens. Now they say I can't go. It cost me a lot of money to fly from here to Spain."

Moussambani shot to international fame as a wildcard entrant in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where he flailed his way to last in the 100 metre heats in a time eight seconds slower than Australian Ian Thorpe's effort over 200 metres.

He had taken up swimming just nine months before the Games in a nation with just two pools and the Australian crowds cheered his plucky performance with enthusiasm rivalling that for a world-record swim.

Swimwear company Speedo promptly sponsored him and over the next 12 months Moussambani was flown around Europe doing interviews and launching products.

Moussambani, who claims to have almost halved his 100 metre time, had hoped an improved performance in Athens would reignite his career and allow him to pursue his dream of studying engineering in Florida, the Herald reported.

But it said he was now considering retirement.

"I would like to continue swimming, but I don't know if I can right now," he said.

"People wanted to see me back. People wanted to see me in Athens."

The Herald reported that there was still a chance Moussambani would make it to Athens as a spectator after Speedo sounded him out about doing promotional work in the Olympic city.

"Maybe on Monday I will go to Athens for one week just to watch," he said.

"They just called me. I would like to do some media work there."

Eric Moussambani