Do you remember 'Eric the Eel?
Eric Moussambani Malonga from Equatorial Guinea was the only swimmer to swim his heat at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
It was so funny!
He became a worldwide sensation.
In the the short film below Eric talks about his journey to the Olympics, and re-tells the story of his experience.
Despite the fact that I laughed almost uncontrollably initially whilst watching a 're-run' of the 'race', the film itself is actually quite moving, and I have a great deal of respect and admiration for him for the courage and determination he displayed.
Whilst I dont know what he's doing now, I really hope he is doing well and was taken care of on his arrival back home, as an Olympian should be.
I was reminded of Eric as I watched the 'all American' boys take gold. ( congratulations to them, and the great Michael Phelps) Britain can stand proud with their silver medal as the American team is an outstanding team.
But as I watched the not very diverse (yet diverse) podium I thought about the stereo type I've heard on occasion, that black people dont, or cant swim.
I thought about a very bad joke I came across recently which said something along the lines of not being able to swim yet loving boat rides.
The bad joke and the stereo type, gave way to me contemplating the African experience with water. Water has played and continues to play a very significant role in the lives of the African.
The transatlantic slave trade and the psychological terror of hundreds being thrown over board. Men women children living and /or dead, food for sharks and other sea creatures, tales of sea creatures who reside in the sea; of water spirits who take people at will, water shortages, or floods, right up to the present day terror of people trafficking, rocky boats on the Mediterranean sea, over flowing with people desperately seeking a better life.
What resides in the subconscious of the African mind when it comes to water?
Heck... that's some scary stuff.
Fortunately, I learnt to swim, so I can confirm that the theory that we are unable to float is untrue :~)
My interesting suggested theory of potential psychological distress due to historical horrors with waters deeper than baths aside, and the potential to connect it with a post traumatic slave syndrome theory - in reality..... it's probably down to a lack of resources( an Olympic sized training pool, trainers) and nothing else.
Much love to Eric :)