Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



How 'Eric the eel' transformed swimming in Equatorial Guinea

Copyright © africanews
AP Photo/Rob Griffith


Twenty years ago, Eric Moussambani became a global star after swimming a 100-metre freestyle alone in the Olympic pool in Sydney

so slowly that it looked like he might sink.

Moussambani was the first swimmer to compete in the Olympics for Equatorial Guinea, a Central African nation with less than one million inhabitants at the time.

"Honestly I didn't know how to swim, I just had notions, nothing more than that," Moussambani explained.

"On an international level and on a competitive level I didn't have much experience, really none at all. I didn't know how to move my arms, feet, and coordinate my breathing in the water. I didn't have much experience of any of that."

Moussambani, nicknamed 'Eric the Eel' by fans and sponsors, had only recently learned to swim and had never seen a 50-metre pool before arriving in Sydney.

"Here in (Equatorial) Guinea we did not have Olympic size swimming pools, and in the pool where I trained, in the old Hotel Ureca, it was a 12-metre-pool, I think," he said.

"It would be more or less like this one here. A pool that small and I would train at five in the morning."

That swim, for which he was not properly trained, but in which he embodied the Olympic spirit, transformed his life.

Moussambani became a symbol for swimming in Equatorial Guinea,

The country now counts two Olympic-size pools.