Olympic rowing: Niger rower Hamadou Issaka captures hearts

Niger rower Hamadou Djibo Issaka received a rapturous reception from the Eton Dorney crowd despite finishing last in the men's singles sculls.

The 35-year-old, who has been nicknamed "Issaka the Otter," finished the 2,000m stretch in just under nine minutes in a race to settle the bottom three places.

Issaka only took up rowing three months ago and trained for his Olympic debut in an old fishing boat.

He now plans to compete at the 2016 Games in Brazil.

Issaka's time was nearly two minutes slower than the winning mark set later on Friday by New Zealand's gold medallist Mahe Drysdale.

But put into perspective that is still some feat for the 35-year-old from the landlocked, arid nation of Niger, which nestles on the edge of the Sahara desert.

Issaka is a wildcard entry at the London Olympics and before the Games he worked as a gardener and swimming pool attendant in the capital of Niamey.

He was then sent by the Niger Swimming Federation to Egypt and then Tunisia for an intensive course in rowing.

"I have no technique," Issaka said. "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."

Issaka's Olympic adventure may be over but there are already murmurs that his rowing exploits have started a craze in Niger.

"There are lots of people who are waiting for me to get back," he said. "Lots of people who want to start rowing and I have to teach them."

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