“I was happy to finish under their applause” … Hammadou Djibo.He may have bowed out of the London Olympics with an inglorious last-placed finish in his single scull semi-final yesterday — but we haven’t seen the last of Hamadou The Hippo.
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The cult hero from Niger, who has only been rowing for three months, has made international headlines at these Olympics after tailing in the field in each of his races. He’s been compared with Eric “The Eel” Moussambani, the swimmer from Equatorial Guinea who thrilled the crowd with his doggy paddle at Sydney 2000.

Hamadou’s preparation for London consisted of just three months’ practice in Egypt, but he was accepted as a competitor in the interests of universal representation.

Confronted with a media scrum at Dorney Lake at Eton yesterday, Hamadou said he was already planning to participate in Rio.

“I’m getting ready for it. When I get back [to Niger] maybe a new boat will be there for me so I can do it,” he said.

For now, the 35-year-old from the Niger capital of Niamey is simply lapping up the attention that comes with being rowing’s newest and most popular celebrity. Even gold medallists haven’t fielded as many media requests as the Hippo.

In his final race on Tuesday, Issaka finished a whopping 1 minute 23.79 seconds behind Hong Kong’s Sau Wah So in the single scull E/F semi. His time of 9 minutes 07.20 seconds for the 2000m race was more than two-and-a-half minutes outside the world record.

That didn’t stop Hamadou getting the biggest cheer of the day from the 25,000-strong crowd, which will also be in full voice when competition kicks up a notch tomorrow, with gold medals up for grabs.

“Their encouragement helped me to finish the race,” Issaka said after a much-needed breakfast of beef and chicken brochettes. “I knew I was going to race, so I didn’t eat too much.”

He also knew that cheering him back home in Niamey, where he works as a gardiner and attendant at a local children’s swimming pool, was his family — especially his son and daughter.

On a grey and drizzly day in London, in his nine minutes plus of rowing, he brought a lot of smiles and cheers to many tired early morning faces.

Asked if he felt his technique had improved during these Games, Issaka replied – as he did on Sunday: “I don’t have any technique.” But he pledged: “With time I will get more technique.”

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