Swimming: For happy Habte, it's all about being different

Tue Aug 9, 2016 5:43pm EDT
 
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By Alan Baldwin

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - If some swimmers consider second place to be first of the losers, spare a thought for Ethiopian Olympic debutant Robel Kiros Habte.

By the time the chubby 24-year-old had emerged for air from his opening dive off the blocks in the 100 meters freestyle heats, he was already almost a body length behind and it did not get any better.

The only one of the 59 entrants in the heats not to complete the distance in under a minute, Habte touched the wall with a time 17 seconds slower than Australian pacesetter Kyle Chalmers who clocked 47.90.

Habte's only rivals in the three-man opening heat, Thibaut Danho of the Ivory Coast and Johnny Perez Urena of the Dominican Republic had removed their caps and were leaning on the lane markers as he trailed in more than 12 seconds behind.

The crowd, recognizing a valiant effort, raised a cheer for a man whose land-locked compatriots are considerably better known for long-distance running feats than any exploits involving water.

Habte acknowledged he had swum faster, his personal best being 59.08 seconds, and suggested morning training had left him feeling strained.

But he told Reuters he was delighted anyway.

"I am so happy because it is my first competition in the Olympics," said the Ethiopia-based university student, whose entry for Rio was secured on a special invitation from world body FINA extended to athletes from under-represented countries.   Continued...

 
Robel Kiros Habte of Ethiopia competes in the men's 100m freestyle.  REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler