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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
'Paula the Crawler' sets record
Paula Bolopa - first time ever in a 50m pool
Bolopa - first time ever in a 50m pool
Paula Barila Bolopa has completed a unique double for Equatorial Guinea's swimming team by swimming the slowest Olympic race in history.

Her feat matches that of her now famous team-mate Eric "the Eel" Moussambani in a heat of the 100m freestyle.

Bolopa's effort has earned her the unenviable nickname "Paula the Crawler".

It's a long way...

Competing in the women's 50m freestyle sprint, 20-year-old Bolopa was roared home in an agonisingly slow one minute 03.97 seconds.

That was almost 40 seconds slower than the fastest qualifier, Inge de Bruijn of the Netherlands.

"It's the first time I've swum 50 was further than I thought," she said. "I was very tired."

Like Moussambani, who has been inundated with calls from media and sponsors, Bolopa only started training in January and had never swum in a 50-metre pool before.

Making a splash

She had also never seen starting blocks before she arrived in Sydney.

Despite that, her reaction time of 0.73 seconds was identical to de Bruijn's and faster than Americans Dara Torres and Amy Van Dyken.

That bright start soon faded though.

"It was a long way down to the water, she wasn't used to that," team's manager Enrique Roca Nguba explained.

Bolopa and Moussambani have become two of the stars of the Sydney Olympics much like Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards became a hero at the 1988 Calgary Olympics for his brave but laughable attempts at ski-jumping.

Rare training

Both have been given new swim suits, goggles and caps and have been signed up by sponsors.

The pair was allowed to compete at the Games as part of a plan by the sport's world governing body FINA to promote swimming in countries not already involved in the sport.

There are only two pools in the Equatorial Guinea and the longest is just 20 metres long but they rarely train in it because of all the tourists there.

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19 Sep 00 |  Swimming
African novice makes big splash
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