Robel Kiros Habte of Ethiopia was ranked 59th out of 59 competitors after taking part in the preliminary heats of the men’s 100m at Rio’s Olympic Aquatics Stadium.
His performance, which saw him finish half a lap behind the others, drew comparisons with Eric the Eel, a Sydney Olympics swimmer who took twice the time of his rivals to finish the 100m but still set a personal best.
Despite the athlete’s struggles, he got a huge cheer from the Brazilian crowds when he finally finished the race with a time of 1 minute, 4.95 seconds.
The portly 24-year-old’s time made him the only competitor not to finish the 100m race in under a minute.
The Twitter user Harold Siyaya said afterward: “How in the world did this Ethiopian swimmer (Robel Habte) qualify for the Olympics? Overweight & embarrassingly slow.”
Habte told Reuters afterward that he was happy with the performance.
He said: “I wanted to do something different for my country — that’s why I chose swimming.
“Everybody, every day you wake up in Ethiopia, you run. Not swimming. But I didn’t want to run, I wanted to be a swimmer.
“It didn’t matter where I finished.”