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Commonwealth Games 2002
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Swimming Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Life in the slow lane
Kpiliboh Otiko
Kpiliboh Otiko was five seconds off his best time

Kpiliboh Otiko may have come last in his 400m freestyle heat, but the Nigerian still achieved the remarkable feat of temporarily overshadowing Ian Thorpe.

The Australian swimming legend won his heat in an effortless 3:47.24mins but the reception he received from the crowd was nothing compared to that of Otiko earlier.

Going in heat one, which was won by Scotland's Graeme Smith, Otiko finished in a time of 4:54.15mins, over a minute slower than the 'Thorpedo'.

But bearing in mind that he is only 14 and has no pool to train in, it must go down as a pretty good effort.

His performance has already drawn comparisons with Eric 'The Eel' Moussambani.

The man from Equatorial Guinea achieved international acclaim at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when he swam alone after two other competitors in his heat were disqualified.

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He learned by swimming in streams and rivers
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Nigerian team official
A lucrative sponsorship deal followed, but Otiko was less than pleased by attracting enormous applause for his effort.

Reluctant to speak after the race, a Nigerian team official said afterwards that Otiko was disappointed with a time five seconds outside his best.

"He was not pleased of course, nobody was pleased with his time," said the official. "For us it is a tragedy.

"But he is a young lad and there are 110 reasons why he did not perform. Maybe the reason is that he was frightened."

Otiko comes from the Ondo state in west Nigeria and was spotted at a school competition two years ago.

"There were no facilities for him at all. He learned by swimming in streams and rivers," said the official.

"He is still at secondary school but now we have discovered him we hope he can benefit from the exposure.

"This is the first time we have brought anyone for a long distance race, although we are used to competing in the sprints.

"Swimming is not our game in Nigeria, though, and there is a lot of work to do."


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