It might seem a tad harsh to brand Eric the Eel’s performance a FAIL. The Equatorial Guinea swiwwmer (full name Eric Moussambani) had never even seen an Olympic-sized swimming pool before arriving in Sydney to compete in the 2000 Games.

Nonetheless, on the scale of world-class athletic performances Eric’s 100m freestyle wasn’t quite up to Olympic standard. But Eric’s brave performance won over the viewing public as he battled to a time of 1:52.72, not only more than a minute slower than the eventual gold medal-winning time, but also outside the world record for 200m freestyle.

But if proof were needed that it’s the taking part that counts, do a little survey among the people you meet today. Ask them who Pieter van den Hoogenband -who won the gold medal in the event – is, then ask them if they know Eric the Eel.