Social media dubs slow Ethiopian swimmer 'Robel the whale'

Robel Habte of Ethiopia competes in the Men's 100m Freestyle heat on Day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 9, 2016

Story highlights

  • Ethiopian swimmer last in 100m freestyle heats
  • Robel Kiros Habte nicknamed "Robel the whale"

Lagos (CNN)He may have finished last, but that didn't stop Robel Kiros Habte getting the biggest cheer at Rio's Olympic Aquatics Stadium.

The Ethiopian swimmer, ranked 59 out of 59 in the men's 100m freestyle competition, didn't upset the rankings, finishing two lengths of the pool in 64.95 seconds -- half a lap behind everyone else.
    Habte's lackluster performance was not the only thing that stood out about the 24-year-old whose chubby frame was in stark contrast to the trim figures of the other swimmers.
    His less than stellar performance earned him a cruel new nickname "Habte the Whale" and it was largely derided on social media. But some supporters were impressed by his dogged determination to finish the race.
    Ethiopians back in his home country, however, have not been quite so supportive of their flag bearers poor showing.
    Questions were raised on social media as to how he qualified for the event, with some saying Habte's father is the president of the Ethiopian Swimming Federation.
    His performance is reminiscent of Eric Moussambani who represented Equatorial Guinea in the 100m freestyle in the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
    He finished in 1:52.72 and earned the name "Eric the Eel."
    In an interview with Reuters, Habte said he was delighted anyway.
    He said: "I am so happy because it is my first competition in the Olympics.
    "I wanted to do something different for my country, that's why I chose swimming ... 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."
    Habte qualified for Rio 2016 through a special invitation from swimming world body FINA extended to athletes from under-represented countries, according to Reuters.