Coming from a land-locked country with citizens better known for their agility on land than in the water – Ethiopian Robel Kiros Habte’s chances in the Olympic pool were never high.
The 24-year-old’s performance in the 100m freestyle saw him finish half a lap behind the last competitor in 1 minute 04.95 seconds.
He was the only one of the 59 contestants who took longer than a minute to finish and was 17 seconds slower than the pacesetter Kyle Chalmers who finished in a time of 47.90 seconds.
The slowest time in the top 16 was more than 15 seconds faster – 48.58secs.
His seemingly sluggish performance still earned him a resounding applause for effort when he finally touched the wall, with his nearest competitors having already taken off their caps and were leaning against the lane markers.
Despite some support from the spectators, detractors were quick to take to the internet, questioning how his speed, or lack thereof, and less-than sculpted body landed him a spot at the games.
Technically the Olympic debutant didn’t even qualify for the 100m free-style, but was in fact a special invitation from the international swimming body to athletes of under-represented countries.
Rumour has it he wasn’t even his country’s best swimmer – but was in the pool more as a result of special favours – his father is thought to be the president of Ethiopia’s Swimming Federation.
There’s only one other Ethiopian entering the Olympic pool at this year’s games: Rahel Gebresilassie in the women’s 50m freestyle.
Despite some criticism, Habte was reportedly happy with his performance.
“For Olympics, my first one, I am so happy. For all the sportsmen, the Olympics are big. So to be [in] competition in the Olympics, I am so happy.”