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Body-shamed Olympic swimmer Robel Kiros Habte of Ethiopia gets waves of support

Robel Kiros Habte, an Ethiopian Olympic swimmer, doesn't share Michael Phelps' or Ryan Lochte's washboard abs.
/ Source: TODAY

By now, we're used to seeing stories about "body positivity" and "body shaming" in our Facebook newsfeed. These terms aren't new to us anymore.

But when the shamers in question go after Olympic athletes, as they have in the most recently witnessed cases ... well, then we're stumped.

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It's true that 24-year-old Robel Kiros Habte, an Ethiopian Olympic swimmer, doesn't share Michael Phelps' or Ryan Lochte's washboard abs and trim, streamlined physiques. It's also true that the 179-pound, 5-foot-9-inch swimmer finished the 100-meter freestyle event in last place with a time of 1 minute and 4.95 seconds — 17 seconds slower than Kyle Chalmers, who finished first.

Still, mudslingers on Twitter aren't concerned with his racing time.

"Spotted fat swimmer at Olympics," reads one unkind tweet.

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Even media organizations and news outlets that tried to defend the swimmer ended up botching their own attempts with less-than-flattering adjectives, such as "tubby," and descriptions like "dad bod."

Others, less willing to even laugh at the matter, believe he made it to the Olympics because his father is the president of the Ethiopian Swimming Federation.

Appearing on TODAY, Habte said he doesn't let the criticism get to him.

Both Billy Bush and Al Roker leapt to the swimmer's defense.

"You give normal guys like us some sort of hope," Al said, while Billy Bush said Habte was a "beautiful man."

In addition to Al and Billy, some Twitter users came out in support of the swimmer.

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"I wanted to do something different for my country, that’s why I chose swimming," Habte told Reuters. "Everybody, every day you wake up in Ethiopia, you run. Not swimming. But I didn’t want to run, I wanted to be a swimmer.

"It didn’t matter where I finished."

Here's hoping it stays that way for the duration of the games!

For more information about the Robel The Whale Foundation, click here.