Underdog becomes hero of Games
HE hails from a landlocked nation in sub-Saharan Africa, and three months ago had not the faintest idea about how to use an oar. But yesterday Hammadou Djibo Issaka became the cult hero of the London Olympics as he finished a full minute and 39 seconds behind the rest of the field in the men's single sculls.
Djibo Issaka was greeted with a standing ovation by the 25,000-strong crowd at Eton's Dorney Lake as he hauled his way to the finish line. With London 2012 just two days old, the sustained applause his efforts attracted is destined to become an abiding image of the Games.
"I have no technique," he admitted. "I only have strength."
Even the announcer became a touch emotional, bellowing "You can do it" as Djibo Issaka approached the finishing line.
Djibo Issaka originally embarked upon a career as a swimmer, when the head of Niger's swimming federation sent him to Egypt for two weeks to try rowing. This allowed him to be put forward for London, "to strengthen the principle of universal representation".
"I'm delighted there were so many people encouraging me," he said. "I was happy to finish under their applause. I'm proud for the whole country. Really, I tried to make a good time."