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Countries Bask in Glory of Their 1st Olympic Medals

Posted August. 21, 2008 06:31,   


“Our national power is still strong. Weightlifters muster up all their power in their bodies. Mr. Kim lifted 125.5 kilograms and showed the world how strong our nation is.”

This is from the Aug. 12, 1948, edition of The Dong-A Ilbo.

The article covered Korean weightlifter Kim Sung-jip in the 1948 London Olympics. He was the first Korean to win an Olympic medal after the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from Japanese rule.

Kim’s feat helped draw world attention to the then insignificant country of Korea, and that was why all Koreans exalted him.

Certain medals mean a lot for countries weak in sports. The medalists deserve comparisons to eight-time gold medal winner Michael Phelps and the fierce medal count race between the United States and China.

Near the bottom of the Olympic standings this year are African countries that are barely known to the world.

Korea first learned of Togo when both teams were placed in the same group in the 2006 World Cup soccer finals. Togolese Benjamin Boukpeti, 27, won the bronze this year in the men’s K1 canoe-slalom, the first for the African country. Born to a Togolese father and a French mother, Boukpeti has become a national hero in his homeland.

Mauritius, an island state with a population of 1.2 million in the Indian Ocean, also won its Olympic medal when bantamweight boxer Bruno Julie, 30, secured the bronze against Venezuela’s Hector Manzanilla in the quarterfinals. Making its Olympic debut in the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Mauritius might enjoy a gold or silver depending how Julie performs later. Sporting a hairstyle featuring an orange-dyed top with the rest of his head shaved, Julie said he is aiming for a gold. His government has also promised a bonus of 25,000 euros to him.

Panama won its first gold in 60 years, having sent just five athletes in three events. Representing a country of 3.5 million, Irving Saladino traveled 8.34 meters through the air to win the men’s long jump. Panama had won two bronze medals in the 100 and 200 meters at the 1948 London Olympics.

Morocco-born runner Rashid Ramsi won Bahrain`s first gold medal, claiming the men`s 1,500 meters.

Mongolian judoka Tuvshinbayar Naidan won his country`s first Olympic gold in the men’s superweight class.

Rasul Bokiev of Tajikistan won the first Olympic medal for the Central Asian country, taking the bronze in the men’s judo 73-kilogram class. Neighboring country Kyrgyzstan enjoyed its first Olympic medal when Kanatbek Begaliev snatched the silver in Greco-Roman wrestling.

Despite its gigantic population, India has remained insignificant in the Olympics. Abhinav Bindra’s gold in the men’s 10-meter air rifle, however, has made him a celebrity. Since his return, he has attended many functions and given numerous interviews.

Bindra has also received six-figure bonuses tax-free and a lifetime train pass, along with a five-star hotel worth 50 million U.S. dollars from his father.