Eric Moussambani Malonga, born in Equatorial Guinea in 1978, gained worldwide recognition for his swimming performance at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Eric, who later became known as “Eric the Eel,” competed in the men’s 100 meters freestyle race at the Sydney Olympic Games for Equatorial Guinea, despite never having raced that far before. Eric trained in hotel pool in Equatorial Guinea that was only 20 meters long; when he arrived in Sydney for the Olympics he said he had never seen an Olympic-size pool. Eric was invited to the Olympics as part of a program that allowed athletes from developing countries to participate directly without qualifying.
The winner of the 100-meter freestyle race was the Dutch van der Hoogenband with a time of 47.84 seconds. Eric clocked 1.52.72.
The race will be remembered for Eric’s strength of spirit to represent the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and swim on to complete the race, despite being an amateur on the Olympic stage. The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil are currently underway, and Robel Kiros Habte from Ethiopia has gained attention for his swimming as an amateur representing a developing country. Habte even finished the 100 meters in 1.04.95, faster than Eric. But the world will never forget Eric the Eel from Equatorial Guinea and the courage he displayed in 2000.