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Originally published Friday, March 30, 2012 at 12:08 PM

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Eric 'the Eel' set for Olympic return as coach

Eric "the Eel" Moussambani will return to the Olympics 12 years after the African swimmer gained worldwide notice for his famously slow performances.

The Associated Press

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MALABO, Equatorial Guinea —

Eric "the Eel" Moussambani will return to the Olympics 12 years after the African swimmer gained worldwide notice for his famously slow performances.

Moussambani, 33, has been selected the Equatorial Guinea Olympic swimming team coach for this year's games in London, although it's not yet clear who or how many swimmers the country will attend.

The government website says Moussambani's appointment was confirmed this month by Equatorial Guinea's swimming federation and its Olympic committee. He will lead the team if he can get time off from his job with an oil company.

Moussambani became a fan and media favorite at the Sydney Games in 2000 with his slow performances. His 1 minute, 52.72 seconds in the 100 meters freestyle heats was more than double that of leading competitors and even outside the 200-meter world record.

Moussambani was given a place at the Olympics through a wildcard system and effectively won his heat after the other two swimmers were disqualified for false starts. It left the man from the small, oil-rich nation in central Africa, who had never been in an Olympic-size pool before, to swim the heat on his own. He began to fade badly near the end but was roared on by the crowd in Australia and finished to a rousing ovation - and newfound fame.

Moussambani trained for Sydney in a hotel pool back home and had learned to swim less than a year earlier. His efforts, to some observers, embodied the Olympic spirit where participation is more important than winning.

He did not compete at the 2004 Games in Athens despite reports that he had drastically improved his times. He also didn't go to Beijing in 2008. Now he's expected to return to sport's biggest event in London in July and August as a coach - if he can negotiate time away from work.

"Given this new responsibility, he (Moussambani) will have to reconcile his work in the oil world with the new responsibility as national coach," the government communications website said.

The government also said it still gets requests for interviews with Moussambani, who had become "a folk hero."

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