Skip to main content

Santo Condorelli finished the 100-metre freestyle final with a personal-best time of 47.88 seconds, putting him in fourth place.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Gold, the medal every athlete is chasing at the Olympics, is listed on the periodic table as Au. But the key element in Canadian swimmer Santo Condorelli's performances is Fu.

Condorelli has caused quite a stir around the pool in Rio de Janeiro this week with his unusual prerace ritual, which involves flipping the bird to his father in the stands.

On Wednesday night, after qualifying for the final of the men's 100-metre freestyle one night earlier with a blistering-fast time, Condorelli did it once more, subtly lifting his middle finger to his face in the direction of his dad.

Story continues below advertisement

Rio Olympics Day 6: What to watch and the latest news

The result was another fast race by the Canadian swimmer, though not good enough for a medal. Condorelli finished with a personal-best time of 47.88 seconds, putting him just off the podium in fourth place.

Kyle Chalmers of Australia won gold in a time of 47.58 seconds. Pieter Timmers of Belgium took silver in 47.80, while Nathan Adrian of the United States claimed bronze in a time of 47.85, just three hundredths of a second faster than Condorelli.

Condorelli's unusual quirk, a loving gesture between father and son, has made headlines around the world and portrayed him as a sort of Canadian bad boy of the pool.

But the gesture has far more innocent beginnings. As a young swimmer, struggling with pressure of competitions, Condorelli's father developed the signal as a secret communication between the two that symbolized the moment they shrugged off everything going on around them, so that young Santo could just race.

The first time Condorelli did it at a youth meet, he won. So they kept doing it.

For years, the gesture was no problem, because few people noticed it was happening. But when he grew older, and meets started being televised, Condorelli's hand signal was caught on TV, and he was forced to apologize.

Story continues below advertisement

Since then, he's tried his best to tone down the habit, but has never fully removed it from his prerace routine. As more and more media attention was focused on the offbeat tradition in Rio, including from concerned Olympic officials, Condorelli made small adjustments.

In the seconds before the 100-metre freestyle semi-final on Tuesday night, Condorelli reached up to adjust his goggles – something every swimmer does – but used his middle finger to do it. Though not as flamboyant as when he and his father first devised the gesture, it was enough to keep the good luck flowing.

Condorelli swam that race in 47.93 seconds, which made him the third-fastest swimmer heading into Wednesday night's final, only a tenth of a second behind top qualifier Adrian.

"I'm getting more and more confident as the meet goes through," Condorelli said of his performance at the Olympics. "I'm just having fun with it, more relaxed, taking it one swim at a time."

Born in Japan and raised in Portland, Ore., Condorelli swims for Canada because his mother is from Kenora, Ont. Three years ago, he declined to swim for the U.S. world junior championship team, opting instead to pursue a future on the Canadian Olympic team.

Condorelli won silver in the 100-metre freestyle at the Pan American Games in Toronto last year, and a bronze in the 100-metre butterfly.

Story continues below advertisement

Before the 100-metre freestyle final in Rio, Condorelli said his goal was to be the first of the Canadian men's team to bring home a medal in swimming, after the women opened the Games with three medals in first three days of competition.

The women's 4x100 freestyle-relay team kicked off the Olympics with a bronze Saturday, followed by Penny Oleksiak's silver in the 100-metre butterfly on Sunday, and Kylie Masse's bronze medal in the 100-metre backstroke on Monday.

With the women riding a wave of momentum, the Canadian men are now hoping to contribute. Two-time Olympic medalist Ryan Cochrane will compete in the 1,500-metre freestyle later this week. Cochrane won bronze in the event at the 2008 Beijing Games, and silver at the 2012 London Olympics.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter