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The Olympic Swimmer Who'd Never Been in an Olympic-Size Pool

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To bring the Olympic spirit to developing nations in the late 1990s, the Olympic Committee allowed a small number of "wild card" athletes to join the Games. But because they didn't have to go through any qualifying rounds to compete, not all of the contenders arrived prepared. One such athlete was a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea named Eric Moussambani. When Moussambani arrived at the 2000 Sydney Games, he'd only been training for the 100-meter freestyle for about eight months. He'd also never been in an Olympic-size pool and had never raced more than 50 meters. Regardless, he was determined to represent his country.

The three wild-card qualifiers were given their own heat, and Moussambani took to the blocks next to swimmers from Niger and Tajikistan. When the official called the swimmers to their marks, both of Moussambani's competitors were disqualified for false starts. Left to swim the heat by himself, Eric dove in and dog paddled, gasping for air and flailing his arms and legs. Halfway through the race, the situation looked so dire that commentators seriously worried he was drowning.

When Moussambani eventually stalled out 10 meters from the end of the race, the crowd rallied behind him as he inched toward the finish. As he finally pulled himself from the water, the applause thundered. His final time was 1:52.72—more than twice that of swimmers in the previous heat. But Moussambani couldn't have been happier. Ecstatic to have finished his first 100-meter race, he told reporters, "I'm going to jump and dance all night long in celebration of my personal triumph."

Moussambani's pluck and perseverance made him an Olympic celebrity, and his newfound fans dubbed him "Eric the Eel." He kept training for the 2004 Games and even got his time down to a respectable 57 seconds. Unfortunately, a visa snafu kept him from competing again.

Here's his memorable Olympic moment (and 52 seconds):

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KXIV
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Redesigned Adidas Sneakers Channel Beijing’s Olympic Stadium
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KXIV

Beijing National Stadium has stood empty since the 2008 Olympics, but that hasn’t stopped the building from becoming an architectural icon. Designer KXIV (Nathan Kiatkulpiboone) found inspiration in the tangled "Bird’s Nest" structure when re-imagining Adidas’s Ultraboost running shoe. As designboom reports, he used 3D-printing technology to achieve the lattice design.

KXIV comes from a background in architecture. When he isn’t dreaming up shopping centers or city towers, he’s applying the principles he uses as an architect to sneaker design. In 2014, he unveiled a pair of Nike Jordan X shoes that borrowed elements from Thailand’s White Temple and Black House. He's also created a line of dress shoes inspired by modern architecture for the footwear brand SewRaw.

His latest project evokes the Bird’s Nest woven exterior. The Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron designed the stadium for the 2008 Olympics, and today it’s remembered as one of the most distinctive structures ever built for the games.

To recreate the look on an Adidas sneaker, KXIV used polyurethane webbing fused to a lycra base. The upper layer of bands were 3D-printed in a way that holds the shoes together. The sneakers are just a prototype, so like the stadium they’re based on, the striking form will remain unused for the foreseeable future.

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV
KXIV

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV

[h/t designboom]

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What’s the Kennection? #148
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