One of the great traditions of the Olympics is the Really Slow Swimmer. In 2012, our Really Slow Swimmer is Turkmenistan's Jennet Saryyeva, an 18-year-old competing in the women's 400m freestyle.
As part of the Olympics' mission, the IOC makes it possible for some competitors from countries that wouldn't otherwise qualify. Most of the time, these competitors are a tad slow, but still are great athletes not quite up to Olympic standards but able to appear respectable against the best the world has to offer. Sometimes, they nearly drown in the 100m freestyle, like Equatorial Guinea's Eric Moussambani back in 2000.
Saryyeva was neither: She was clearly quite capable of swimming 400 meters without dying, but she found herself more than a minute slower than the second-worst competitor in her field, leading to 75 meters of solo swimming in an Olympic heat and a rousing round of applause from the London crowd.
My favorite part are the other two swimmers just chilling in the pool, waiting for their competition to finish. Either that or they're swimmers from the next heat
In the three-woman heat, Saryyeva finished 1 minute 26 seconds behind the second-fastest swimmer, Andrea Cedron Rodriguez of Peru, with a time of 5:40.29. As far back as we looked -- 1992 -- no competitor had clocked a time of over 5:00 in the 400m freestyle. She took the performance in stride, though:
Her effort was a new national record, she said. The mark she broke, Saryyeva said with a smile, was her own.
Turkmenistani swimming fans shouldn't count out their chances at medalling yet, however, as Sergey Kroyakov still will compete in the 100m freestyle. So set aside 20 or 30 minutes of your schedule to watch Sergey go for gold.