Eric "the Eel" Moussambani
At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Swimmer Eric Moussambani made quite a splash. Eric was from Equatorial Guinea, not a place known for swimming. Eric soon became well known by his nickname "the Eel".
In his heat of the 100m freestyle event, there were only two other competitors, but they were disqualified for jumping the starter's gun. This left Eric to race in the pool all by himself. Eric took 112.72 seconds, the slowest time recorded, about a minute more than the next slowest competitor, and more than twice as long as Pieter van den Hoogenband's gold-winning performance.
The worldwide audience embraced this poor swimmer, not because he was any good, but because he embodied the spirit of the Games, which is about taking part and doing your best.