Olympic champions often become icons, legends, celebrities and role models.
But sometimes athletes who don’t win can make a big impression too.
This story comes from the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, in the mens’ 100 meter freestyle swim.
In one of the preliminary rounds, two of the three swimmers were disqualified because of false starts.
That meant the remaining swimmer, Eric Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea, was automatically going to win the heat.
The thing was, Eric Moussambani had only been swimming for eight months.
The Olympics were in September, and he’d started in January.
Olympic swimming pools are 50 meters long; the pool in which he trained was only 20 meters.
And because it was a hotel pool, he and his fellow swimmers sometimes had to wait to use it so tourists could have a turn.
In fact, Moussambani had qualified for the event because the Olympic organizers wanted more athletes from countries without high-tech training facilities to participate.
Moussambani started his solo heat strong; maybe not as fast as the leaders in the sport, but steady progress.
By the halfway mark, he started to slow down, but the crowd started cheering him on, encouraging him to keep going.
He finished with a time of 1 minute, 52.72 seconds, over a minute behind the qualifiers.
But he was an Olympian, and a pretty well respected one, at that.
Anytime there’s a competitor who may not set any new records, may not even be that experienced in their sport, but gives full effort anyway, you’ll hear the name of Eric Moussambani, or maybe his nickname: “Eric the Eel.”
So here’s one more story of an athlete overcoming hardships to compete.
At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Canadian high jumper Derek Drouin won the gold medal while he had a double stress fracture in high back!
After that the doctors made him rest for two months straight.