Don't be offended if you see a swimmer give the crowd at the Rio Olympic pool a crude one-fingered salute.

It's just Canadian swimmer Santo Condorelli doing his normal thing.

Condorelli competes in the 100m freestyle with heats for the event starting tomorrow.

Born in Japan but raised in the United States, Condorelli is able to swim for Canada because his mother hails from Ontario.


It's the 21-year-old's relationship with his father that generates the most discussion, though.

Before every race Condorelli gives his father, Joseph, the finger. Joseph flips the bird right back.

It's a unique pre-race routine the pair have been completing for several years - and for good reason.

Despite now standing at 188cm, Condorelli was smaller than most of the other kids he competed against as a youngster. He used to get intimidated by his lack of size when standing up on the blocks, so Joseph devised a strategy.

"I told him, 'Enough is enough,'" Joseph told earlier this year. "'When you get on the blocks, just put everything out of your mind and swim like there's nobody near you.'

"He said to me, 'How do you do that?' and I said, 'Well, you say f*** it.' So he looked at me in the crowd, and we both gave each other the finger, and he started winning race after race and we never looked back."

Condorelli started winning bigger and bigger meets until he was suddenly making noise on the world stage.

"My dad was like, 'You know what? Give me the finger before every race, just to worry about us, what we put in, we can conquer anything,'" he said.


Not everyone has received the routine favourably. Condorelli was forced to write an apology letter after he was inadvertently caught on camera saluting his father at the 2012 US junior nationals.

"I was unaware about TV broadcasting and all that, and my father was on the sidelines," Condorelli said. "We gave each other the finger and the camera happened to be pointing right at me at the time so it looked like I was giving the bird to national television and I got ... a stern talking to from one of my coaches. Another coach was super offended, [they] thought I was targeting it towards their swimmer directly."

Condorelli has modified the hand gesture in recent times, placing his finger against his forehead so it draws less attention. But the results have kept coming.

He finished fourth at last year's world championships behind Chinese winner Ning Zetao and Australian Cameron McEvoy.

Joseph will be watching poolside in Rio and hopes his son can go even further.

"I said, 'You got to be careful, man. If you win the gold medal in Rio, I don't know if we should do it there! Too many people looking!'"