- By Katie CellaKatie Cella is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.
While the United States and China anxiously watch the medal count to see who will end the Olympics with more hardware, for some countries, just a single medal is cause for celebration.
Tajikistan’s 19-year-old female boxer, Mavzuna Chorieva, won her country’s third-ever* (and first at the 2012 Games) Olympic medal on Aug. 8 after taking the bronze in women’s lightweight boxing at the 2012 London Olympics.
Because it’s difficult for Tajik women to participate in combat sports, Chorievna spent years disguising herself as a boy in order to compete in boxing matches, and even when she was allowed to participate as a girl, she boxed against men since there were no other women to fight.
Her victory for Tajikistan saw the whole gamut of responses on social media, ranging from accolades for making a significant stride for Tajik women to indignation from others who believe women in Tajikistan should not participate in combat sports.
Tajikistan was not the only country to bring home its first* 2012 Olympic medal this week, and definitely not the most excited. Other countries brought home their first-ever Olympic medals:
After Grenada’s Kirani James (pictured above) won the men’s 400-meter final on Aug. 6, the Grenadian Prime Minister declared the following day a national half-holiday. The city of Gouyave put on huge carnivals to celebrate James’s performance. His victory also made Grenada the smallest country to win an Olympic gold.
Trinidad and Tobago took home its first Olympic medal on Aug. 7 after Lalonde Gordon took the bronze in the same event, the men’s 400 meter. Although cheers broke out on Port of Spain’s Independence Square as spectators watched on a huge screen, the country’s celebration was slightly more muted than in its Caribbean neighbor.
Guatemala’s first medal-winning athlete Erick Barrondo was anointed a Knight of the Order of the Sovereign Congress after bagging the silver medal during the men’s 20K race walking competition.
Cyprus’s first-ever medal winner Pavlos Kontides schemed up his own hero’s welcome after winning the silver medal in the men’s Laser class sailing event, telling the press, "I suspect my name will be written in golden letters in Cyprus," and, "When I get back home there will be huge celebrations because this is a huge achievement for my country, the first-ever Olympic medal."
He was right; crowds swarmed the airport waving banners that read "Immortal" and "You’ve Made Us All Proud," and hoses mounted on fire trucks sprayed arcs of water for Kontides’s plane to pass under while it taxied to the gate.
*Correction, Aug. 13, 2012: The original post incorrectly stated that Tajikistan won its first medal at this year’s Olympics. It actually won two at the 2008 Olympics. The post has been accordingly revised.