One year ago, Hamadou Issaka did not picture himself rowing for the gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Issaka, now 35-years-old, took up rowing for sport only three months ago. He used an old fishing boat to train for his Olympic debut.
Nicknamed “Issaka the Otter,” he finished in last place, completing the 2,000m distance in less than nine minutes. His finishing time was two full minutes slower than the winning mark set by the gold medalist Mahe Drysdale from New Zealand; however, that is still quite an accomplishment from this native of Niger, an arid, landlocked nation just on the edge of the Sahara desert. He plans to compete in the 2016 Games in Brazil.
Before the Games, Issaka worked as a gardener and swimming pool attendant in Nger’s capital of Niamey.
Afterwards, the Niger Swimming Federation sent him to Egypt and then Tunisia for and intensive rowing course. Issaka said, "I have no technique. I only rely on power. I compete with courage, but there also people cheering me there, they applaud me and urge me to help me finish my race and I will do it."
The Niger people fully support Issaka and are even looking forward to his return so that he may teach the sport to others.
Looks like Niger may be an up and coming rowing force in the 2016 Games in Brazil.
Photo Credit: AFP Source: The Daily Telegraph