- Ask Steven
Eric the Eel 2Steven Lynch August 6, 2012
Who was London's answer to "Eric the Eel"? asked Jerome Browne
The early contender for this "award" - for bravely taking part despite little discernible ability in the event in question - was Hamadou Djibo Issaka, a 35-year-old from Niger, who trailed in about 90 seconds behind the other rowers in the heats of the single sculls last week. He'd only been rowing for about three months, having originally trained as a swimmer. "I have no technique," he admitted, "I have only strength." It wasn't quite enough, although his plucky efforts did earn him standing ovations from the crowds at Dorney Lake. The original Eric the Eel - Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea - made headlines in Sydney in 2000 after completing his heat of the 100m freestyle swimming in a time slower than the 200m world record. Eric did, however, have the honour of winning his heat, which contained only two other swimmers, both of whom were disqualified for false starts.
There was a lot of talk about Michael Phelps' medal haul during the Olympics, but how many medals has Ryan Lochte won now? asked Jane Simpson
Michael Phelps ended the Games - and his Olympic career - with 22 medals, no fewer than 18 of them gold. That's the overall record, beating the previous-best of 18 by the Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina between 1956 and 1964. Lochte started quicker than Phelps in London, but finished with five medals to Phelps's six - overall he "only" has 11 now (five gold, three silver and three bronze). Lochte had won two medals in Athens in 2004 (silver in the 200m individual medley, and gold in the 4x200m freestyle), and four in Beijing in 2008 - golds in the 200m backstroke and 4x200m freestyle relay, and bronzes in the 200 and 400m individual medley. Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi also won 11 medals (with nine and eight golds respectively), and the only swimmers apart from Phelps with more Olympic medals are the American women Natalie Coughlin, Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres, with 12 apiece.
I kept hearing the phrase "not since the London Olympics of 1908" during the TV coverage. Exactly how many medals did Britain win back then?! asked Elizabeth Harding
Back in 1908 Great Britain won 56 gold medals (plus 51 silver and 39 bronze). They easily topped the medal table, with the United States second on 23 golds; then came Sweden with eight and France with five. Those were different days, of course - only 22 nations sent teams (19 of them won medals; Argentina, Switzerland and Turkey were the only ones that missed out). There was much controversy about the judging, which was seen as pro-British - especially by the Americans, who were awarded a (very unofficial) gold medal by the UK press for being the best at protesting. The men's 400 metres, for example, was won by Britain's Wyndham Halswelle in the only Olympic track walkover, when a rerun was ordered after an American was judged to have baulked Halswelle in the original final. The guilty man was excluded, and the other two finalists - also Americans - refused to take part in the rerun. By the way, those 1908 Olympics were originally supposed to be held in Rome, but an eruption of Vesuvius forced the Italian government to divert funds towards the rebuilding of Naples, and the Games were moved to London.
The Australian swimmer Leisel Jones was taking part in her fourth Olympics. What's the record for a swimmer, since they usually have very short competitive careers? asked Martin Baker
Two men who appeared in London in 2012 were taking part in their sixth Olympics, a record for a swimmer. Derya Buyukuncu, a former world junior backstroke champion, represented Turkey aged 36, having appeared at all of the five previous Games since 1992. He was joined by the Swede Lars Frolander, the gold medallist from the 100m butterfly in Sydney in 2000, who was also competing in his sixth Games. The American female swimmer Dara Torres narrowly missed selection for her sixth Games in 2012 - she was fourth in the US Olympic trials for the 50m freestyle, nine-hundredths of a second behind the second qualifier. Now 45, Torres won the first of her 12 Olympic medals (neatly, four of each colour) as a 17-year-old at Los Angeles in 1984. She emerged from retirement to win silver in the 50m freestyle in Beijing in 2008, and picked up two relay silvers as well. She missed the 1996 and 2004 Games, otherwise could have competed in a record seven Olympics.
When was the triathlon first included in the Olympics? asked Tom Jenkins
The gruelling triathlon - in which the competitors must swim, cycle and then run long distances - was added to the Olympic programme in 2000 in Sydney. It had long been a very popular pastime in Australia, so it was a shock to the home system when the first Olympic champions were Simon Whitfield from Canada and the Swiss woman Brigitte McMahon. It was a similar story in Athens in 2004, when the individual winners were Hamish Carter (who led home a New Zealand 1-2 in the men's race) and Kate Allen, who was representing Austria despite being born near Melbourne. Australia finally got the gold they'd been waiting for in Beijing in 2008, when Emma Snowsill won the women's race: the men's champion was Germany's Jan Frodeno, who just held off the 2000 champion Whitfield.
I read that Bradley Wiggins now has the record for the most Olympic medals by a British athlete. Whose record did he break? asked Gordon Murray
Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins's gold in the men's cycling time trial at Hampton Court last week was his seventh Olympic medal, following golds in the individual (2004 and 2008) and team (2008) pursuit races, silver in the team pursuit in 2004, and bronzes in the team pursuit in 2000 and the madison in 2004. The previous record-holder was Sir Steve Redgrave who, in addition to his famous haul of rowing golds at each of the five Olympics from 1984 to 2000, also won a bronze in the coxed pairs in 1988. Sir Chris Hoy equalled Redgrave's tally with his victory in the men's team sprint last Thursday.