KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) - A 12-year-old swimmer from Myanmar was forced to swim alone in the heats of the men’s 100 meters breaststroke at the world championships before being roared home by an enthusiastic crowd at the Kazan Arena on Sunday.
Ahnt Khaung Htut found himself swimming the event on his own after his fellow competitors from Guinea and Cameroon pulled out of the opening heat.
“I loved it in there and I am so proud of being here,” said Htut, who has ambitions to swim at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Htut says he was invited to swim at the championships by world governing body FINA, who said that there is currently no age limit to compete at a championship or Olympic Games.
Htut is the second youngest swimming competitor at the championships behind 11-year-old compatriot Su Moe Theint San.
Despite the focus centering on lane four, Htut posted a personal best time of one minute 16.13 seconds, 17.61 seconds slower than championship record mark posted by Britain’s Adam Peaty in the final heat.
Htut could have posted a quicker time but revealed that he had broken his wrist in the build-up to the event.
Showing the scar above his left hand, Htut said: “I did it in April when I ran in the swimming pool and slipped down.”
The 12-year-old, who started swimming at the age of six and idolises China’s Sun Yang, posted the third slowest time in the heats, ahead of swimmers from Nepal and Lesotho.
Htut first competed at a major meeting as an 11-year-old at last year’s world short course championships in Doha.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly