Overall, he finished last among the 59 competitors in the eight heats with a time of 1 minute 4.95 seconds. Habte confessed that his personal best was 59.08 seconds; Australia’s Kyle Chalmers won his heat with a time of 47.9 seconds.
Ecadf, an Ethiopian news site, called him “out of shape.” Others coldly called him “Robel the Whale.” Habte is 5 feet 9 and weighs 179 pounds. Chalmers, for instance, is 6-4 and weighs 194.
(Eric “the Eel” Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea completed the 100-meter freestyle in 1:52.72 during the Sydney Games.)
And still others noted that Habte is the, ahem, son of the president of the country’s swimming federation.
Whatever brought him to Rio, the 24-year-old college student was a crowd favorite and was pretty happy just to be there.
“I wanted to do something different for my country, that’s why I chose swimming,” he told Reuters. “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.”