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He is worth the weight as he follows in the footsteps of Equatorial Guinea’s Sydney 2000 ‘hero’ Eric the Eel

A portly swimmer cruelly dubbed ‘Robel the Whale’ has become an internet sensation after finishing half a lap behind his Olympic rivals in the 100m freestyle.

Robel Kiros Habte, from Ethiopia, was ranked 59th out of 59 competitors after taking part in the Preliminary Men’s 100m Freestyle heats at Rio’s Olympic Aquatics Stadium.

His performance, which saw him finish half a lap behind the others, drew comparisons with Eric the Eeel, a Sydney Olympics swimmer who took double the time of his rivals to finish the 100m freestyle but still set a personal best.

Despite the tubby 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 chubby 24-year-old’s time made him the only competitor not to finish the 100m race in under a minute.

Yet the unknown African’s performance would have left Equatorial Guinea’s Sydney 2000 ‘hero’ Eric the Eel in the shade.

Moussambani, then 22, took more than twice as long as his rivals to finish the same 100m event in 1min 52.72sec.

And 16 years later Habte, 24, who reportedly scales in at 81 kilos, was worth the weight for Twitter users.

Harold Siyaya tweeted afterwards: “How in the world did this Ethiopian swimmer (Robel Habte) qualify for the Olympics? Overweight & embarrassingly slow.”

But sports journalist Jai Bednall wrote: “First cheer at the #Rio2016 pool goes to Ethiopia’s Robel Habte. Not quite Eric the Eel but close.”

And Dale Miller tweeted: “Ethiopia’s Robel Kiros Habte finishes half a lap behind other swimmers in 100m free heat.

“Gets huge cheer after finishing. Love it.”

Habte told news agency Reuters afterwards 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.

Robel is reportedly to be the son of the Ethiopian Swimming Federation President Kiros Habte.

“It didn’t matter where I finished.”

(Compiled from Agencies)