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August 14 2012

Puerto Rico: Jaime Espinal's Silver Medal Makes History

On 11 August 2012 Jaime Yusept Espinal became the second medallist for Puerto Rico in the London 2012 Olympic Games, after Javier Culson's bronze medal. Espinal, born in the Dominican Republic, won his historic silver medal in the final of the 84 kilo division freestyle wrestling.   He wrestled against Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan who then went on to win the gold medal.  There was a tie for third place and the bronze medal between Dato Mrsagishvili of Georgia and Ehsan Lashgari of Iran.

It is the first time that Puerto Rico has reached a final in wrestling and the first time that they have won an Olympic medal in this sport.  This medal is also the second Olympic medal that the country has won in a sport that is not boxing.  Puerto Rico now has six bronze medals (five in boxing and one in athletics) and two silver (one in boxing and one in wrestling) making a total of eight Olympic medals.

The euphoria was clear on Twitter since early in the morning.  The hashtag #JaimeEspinal became a trending topic on a global scale as soon as it was known that Puerto Rico were guaranteed a silver medal and that there was a possibility for a gold medal.  Once the result of the final was known, Jaime Espinal again became a trending topic.   Emotions were running high with Twitter users celebrating Puerto Rico's silver medal in the freestyle wrestling event:

@myma27: Y nos quedamos con la #Plata con la misma emoción y orgullo. #JaimeEspinal eres otro #OrgulloBoricua! GRACIAS por esta medalla! #PUR :')) <3

@myma27: So we have the #Plata (silver) with the same excitement and pride. #JaimeEspinal You are something else! #OrgulloBoricua (Puerto Rico Pride). THANK YOU for this medal! #PUR :')) <3

@belenguis#JaimeEspinal gracias por esa de plata

@belenguis#JaimeEspinal thank you for this silver

@‏20_dariana: Una medalla de plata no es nada facil de lograr #OrgulloBoricua#JaimeEspinal!

@‏20_dariana: A silver medal is not an easy thing to win#OrgulloBoricua#JaimeEspinal!

@jrvesco#JaimeEspinal: gracias por la medalla!!! Pusiste a Puerto Rico en alto!

@jrvesco#JaimeEspinal: thank you for the medal!!! You have put Puerto Rico on the map!

@xero94: Excelente combate de #JaimeEspinal ORGULLO BORICUA Y DEL CARIBE! #Plata

@xero94: excellent final from #JaimeEspinal PUERTO RICAN AND CARIBBEAN PRIDE! #Plata(Silver)

@PedVidSa: Fue de Plata pero para todo Puerto Rico fue de ORO Felicidades a #JaimeEspinal En hora buena…

@PedVidSa: It was silver but for everyone in Puerto Rico it was GOLD congratulations go to #JaimeEspinal Well done…

@JLebronMillan: Por poco se me Sale el Corazón! #JaimeEspinal medalla de plata que vale como ORO! Felicitaciones!!!

@JLebronMillan: My heart is in my mouth! #JaimeEspinal the silver medal is the same as GOLD! Congratulations!!!

Franklin Gómez also shined in the freestyle wrestling event

The wrestler Franklin Gómez was eliminated after fighting for the bronze medal in the 60 kilo event against Yogeshwawa Dutt of India.  Gómez had a good chance of winning a medal, but these hopes were dashed after he contracted the flu which meant that he almost did not make it for his first fight against the Russian Besik Kudukhov.  Although he felt weaker than usual, the fighters were leveled after the first period.  However, Kudukhov won the next two rounds in the close fight.  When Kudukhov reached the final, it was known that Gómez still had the chance to compete for the bronze medal against Dutt.  The first two rounds saw the fighters drawing 0-0, which meant that the fight would go on to a draw to see who would have the advantage of having the first attacking movement with the other not being able to defend.  In both occasions Dutt won the draw and was overall the victor.

Whatever the result of the final fight, Gómez was always one of the favourites to win a medal and he was always at the height of his game and gave everything - even with the flu.  Jaime Espinal and Franklin Gómez are the first to compete for Puerto Rico in Olympic wrestling after three consecutive Olympic games without fielding a competitor in the freestyle wrestling event.

*Cover photograph by Quique Aparicio, courtesy of the  Olympic Committee of Puerto Rico.

Saudi Arabia: Reaching the Line of Gender Equality

While saluting the decision of Saudi Arabia to send two female athletes to the London Olympics, the Blog of Amnesty International - USA deplores the fact that Saudi women cannot drive. “The whole world has been watching Saudi women and their triumphant appearance at the Olympics, and most news stories about them mention that they can't drive back home,” it says. “Evidently, Saudi Arabia has a long way to reach the finish line of ‘gender equality.’ Nevertheless, Sarah Attar’s 800 meter run at the 2012 Olympics certainly shortens the distance.”

Saudi Arabia: Female Athlethes Out of the Olympics, into the Twitter Storm

After stepping out of the Olympics, the first and only Saudi female athletes in the history of the Saudi sports, Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shahrkhani have received a storm of reactions on the Saudi twittersphere.

Way to Go!

After emerging last in the women's 800m, Sarah received a good round of applause from the audience - and her name became a trending topic on Twitter.

Inspiration:

Below is a sample of support tweets from Saudi Twitter users for both athletes.

"It's not the winning but the taking part" #SaraAttar 1st female Saudi athelete to compete ever! #olympicmoments - Twitter comment by @DIAstyle, who shares this photograph on Twitter

It's not the winning but the taking part #SaraAttar 1st female Saudi athelete to compete ever! #olympicmoments - Twitter comment by @DIAstyle, who shares this photograph on Twitter


Ali Khadra writes:

‏@aykcanvas: It's not always abt gold! What u did is far greater. Thank u #SaraAttar #Wejdan #Wijdan. Thank u #KSA. Better late than never #2012Olympics

Bader Aljehani beams with pride:

@BooDzJ: #SaraAttar We are proud of you and Wejdan more than anyone in the Saudi Team!

Sara Attar is a global trend :) #SaraAttar, writes @WordWizard on Twitter. He also shares this screen shot

And Nada Abu makes a promise:

@NadaAbu: You’ll see me on the screen a winner one day. Thanks for the inspiration #SaraAttar http://twitpic.com/agw7nn

You Disgraced Us!

On the other hand, some Saudi Twitter users were against the participation of the two athletes, blaming their families and authorities for allowing them to ‘drag down' the Kingdom's name and reputation.

Among them in this Twitter user, Faisal Abuthnain, who writes [ar]:

@FaisalAbuthnain:سارة عطار تتوقعين الي يصفق لك او يشكرك على إنجازك الكبير؟ بل فرحة بكسرك لخصوصية مجتمعك وتعاليم دينك ونصائح عقلائه وتمردا على حجابك!!
Sarah Attar, Do you think your supporters support you because of your huge accomplishment? No, it is because you broke your society's rules, your religion's teachings, the advice from the wise people in your society and your Hijab regulations!

ZaibB was shocked of what he read on the hashtag dedicated to the two athletes and complains:

@ZainB:مسكينة #وجدان_شهرخاني دخلت الهاشتاق فوجدتها تتعرض لثلاث انواع من العنصرية: ١- العنصرية المناطقية ٢- العنصرية القبلية ٣- العنصرية ضد المرأة

Poor Wijdan! All I read in her hashtag were three things: 1- Regional racism 2- Tribal racism 3- and Sexism

and Dr. Mahammad Albarrak is criticizing:

@mohamdalbarrak:أشد من فعل المنكر أن يدافع الإنسان عنه ويعتبره معروفا ويحاول جاهدا أن يبحث له عن مبررات مثل الذين يدافعون عن #سارة_العطار و #وجدان_شهرخاني

What is worse than committing a sin is praising it, like those who are trying to defend Sarah and Wojdan and find excuses for their actions

Finally, Nourah is trying to justify:

@noura_aljadaan: For everyone who is laughing at #SaraAttar don't forget that schools here don't teach girls sports so going there is an accomplishment

Central Asia's Mixed Success at London Olympics

The 2012 Summer Olympics offered mixed successes for the five post-Soviet Central Asian states and Afghanistan. While the Games proved nothing short of triumph for team Kazakhstan, the success of athletes from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan was more moderate. And for Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan whose athletes left London empty-handed, the London Olympics were largely a disappointment.

Afghanistan

Team Afghanistan which grew from a four-person squad at 2008 Olympics to include six athletes at the 2012 Games matched the success it achieved in Beijing four years ago. After winning Afghanistan's first ever Olympic medal in 2008, fighter Rohullah Nikpai bagged another bronze medal in men's Taekwondo in London. Now the war-torn country that has participated in 13 Summer Games has  two Olympic medals, both claimed by Nikpai.

The fighter's 2012 success was met with an explosion of excitement in social media, with some netizens suggesting that Nikpai's bronze meant more than gold for Afghanistan. Another Afghan Taekwondo fighter, Nesar Ahmad Bahawi, finished the games one step away from a bronze medal.

Internet-based Daily Outlook Afghanistan wrote about the country's success at 2012 Olympics:

Afghan athletes are real heroes of the country. Their achievements in different international sporting events have not only brought some moments of joy and pride, but also a great sense of unity among Afghans regardless of their ethnic background…

Their achievements have not only been a moral boast to the confidence and pride of our terrorism-hit people, but also a paradigm for youth to play their role in bringing honor to the country. Our athletes deserve exceptional encouragement that despite lack of facilities, they make history…

Kazakhstan

For Kazakhstan, the London Olympics have been an unprecedented success. The country's 115 athletes won 13 medals, including seven golds. Due to this dazzling success, Kazakhstan finished 12th in the overall medal table, a huge progress compared to the 2008 Games when the country was 29th. Kazakh athletes took four of the seven golds in weightlifting. Female weightlifters Zulfiya Chinshanlo, Maiya Maneza, and Svetlana Podobedova won gold in different weight divisions, with Ilya Ilyin matching their achievement in men's 94-kg division. The remaining golds were claimed by Olga Rypakova (women's triple jump), Serik Sapiyev (men's under-69-kg boxing), and Alexandr Vinokurov (men's road face).

Team Kazakhstan's success was accompanied by some controversy about its Chinese-born female weightlifters, whose success was also claimed by Beijing. However, as one blogger suggested, the national origin of the athletes in questions “doesn't change what they have accomplished. [They] were not champions in China. Kazakhstan apparently found them, trained them, and made them champions.”

On Kazakh blogging platform Yvision.kz, Bnews wrote [ru]:

[П]рошедшая Олимпиада в Лондоне стала триумфом для нашей страны, многие заговорили и узнали о нас, а в зале тяжелой атлетике уже наверное давным-давно знают наш гимн наизусть.

Спасибо нашим спортсменам и всем-всем за сказку, длиною в 2 недели и за их тяжелый труд. Желаем успехов и превосходных достижении, через 4 года в Рио-де-Жанейро результат будет еще лучше!

The London Olympics became a triumph for our country, with many people speaking about us and having learnt about [Kazakhstan]; while in the weightlifting gyms, people have long known our national anthem by heart.

Thanks to our athletes and everyone else for the fairy-tale that lasted for two weeks, and for their hard work. We wish them success and remarkable achievements. In four years, at [2016 Rio de Janeiro Games], we are going to have even better results!

Kyrgyzstan

The London Olympics were one big disappointment for Kyrgyzstan which had sent 14 athletes to the Games. Four years ago, in Beijing, the Kyrgyz took one silver and one bronze in men's Greco-Roman wrestling. Travelling to London this year, Kyrgyz wrestlers also hoped to bring home at least two medals. Among the country's main medal hopefuls in London was Aisuluu Tynybekova, a 19-year-old female wrestler, who faced a criminal charge of “hooliganism” at home. Tynybekova and all the male athletes from team Kyrgyzstan left the British capital empty-handed.

The failure of Kyrgyz athletes to win medals has cost them a lot of criticism at home. After Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Kyrgyz service asked readers of its website to say what they think of the country's performance at the 2012 Olympics, Aybek from Bishkek wrote [ru]:

…Я согласен с тем, что результаты на Олимпиаде отражают ситуацию в стране в целом, то есть все абсолютно плачевно…. Нам нечем и некем гордиться… Виноваты все - и государство и каждый из нас… Вместо того, чтобы покупать себе джипы и строить особняки, лучше бы спортсменам помогли.

…I agree that the results of the Olympics reflect the situations in the country in general, that is, absolutely everything in the country is sorrowful… We have nothing and nobody to be proud of… Everyone is to blame - both the state and each of us… Instead of buying expensive off-road cars and building mansions, we'd better help our athletes.

But another Bishkek resident, Bolot Temirov, was less pessimistic, suggesting [ru] that the 2012 Olympic failure might actually benefit the country in a longer term:

Самое главное сделать выводы. Иногда нужны поражения, чтобы потом были победы…

The most important thing [now] is to draw conclusions. Sometimes you need to lose in order to have victories in future…

Tajikistan

Just like Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan won two medals - one bronze and one silver - at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Just like Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan was hoping to at least match its 2008 success in London. Unlike Kyrgyzstan, however, Tajikistan bagged an Olympic medal at this year's Games. The country's only medal, a bronze, was won by 19-year-old female boxer, Mavzuna Chorieva. By achieving this success, the fighter is said to have broken major social stereotypes related to women's role in Tajikistan. She is also being promoted as a new “national symbol” by some netizens. The rest of the 16 athletes representing Tajikistan in London, including the 2008 Olympic heroes Rasul Boqiev and Yusup Abdusalomov, failed to impress this year.

Yet, Tajikistanis appear to be happy about the single medal taken by the female boxer. As journalist Salim Aioubzod explained [tj] on Facebook:

Як медали биринҷии мо баробари 10 нишони тилои баӣзе кишварҳост.

Our single bronze medal equals ten golds taken by some countries.

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan which hasn't yet won a single Olympic medal brought 10 athletes to London. None of them was expected to contend for a medal. And none of them did. Yet, according to the government news service, Turkmenistan's athletes “performed respectably” [ru] at the Games, breaking several personal and nationals records.

The only thing Turkmenistan is likely to be remembered about after the London Olympics is the incident with a Turkmen boxing referee, Ishanguly Meretnyyazov, who was expelled by the International Boxing Association for improper officiating at the Games.

Uzbekistan

Prior to London, Uzbekistan took 17 Summer Olympic medals, including four golds. At Beijing Games four years ago, Uzbek athletes won six medals: one gold (in men's freestyle wrestling), two silvers (in men's judo and wrestling), and three bronzes (in men's and women's gymnastics, and in men's judo).

Uzbekistan had a more moderate success this year in London where its 53-athlete-strong team claimed four medals. Artur Taymazov, the country's famous freestyle wrestler, won his third straight Olympic wrestling gold in men's 120-kg category. Three bronzes were won by Abbos Atoev (men's 75-kg boxing), Rishod Sobirov (men's under-60-kg judo), and Soslan Tigiev (men's 74-kg freestyle wrestling).

Discussing the results of the London Olympics for Uzbekistan on Russia's most popular online social network VKontakte, one user wrote [tj]:

Олимпиада Лондон-2012 закончилась.

Узбекистан 47 место! Кто-то доволен результатами, кто-то нет! Но всё, же мы поздравляем всех тех, кто принёс нашей стране медали (не важно какие) главное что они есть…

The London 2012 Olympics is over.

Uzbekistan is 47th [in the overall medal count]! Some people are happy about the result, some are not! Still, we extend our congratulations to those who won medals for our country (whatever medals these are). The most important thing is that we have [these medals]…

August 13 2012

Afghanistan: When Bronze Means More than Gold

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Afghan Taekwondo fighter Rohullah Nikpai won bronze in the men's under-68-kg category at the 2012 Summer Olympic in London. The 25-year-old athlete has thus matched his achievement at Beijing Games four years ago, where he also won bronze. The two bronzes claimed by the fighter have become Afghanistan's first ever Olympic medals, turning Nikpai into a national hero in the war-torn country.

Nikpai's Olympic success has been quite unexpected because of his background. New York Times reports that the athlete long lived in a refugee camp in Iran, returning to Kabul only four years before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Even after the return, Nikpai could train only in the early morning and late evening because he had to work as a barber to make ends meet. According to The Guardian, Nikpai comes from the Hazara ethnic minority, which has long been discriminated by other groups in Afghanistan.

Taekwondo fighter Rohullah Nikpai claimed two bronze medals for Afghanistan at 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. Screenshot from video “Afghan taekwondo star aims high” uploaded on YouTube by AFP on July 13, 2012.

Nikpai's 2012 Olympic bronze was met with an explosion of excitement in social media.

Ashraf Jawadi wrote on Facebook [fa]:

چقدر احساس غرور نمودم با اشک شادی نیکپاه من هم گریستم. دیشب تا آخرین لحظه ها پای تلویزیون نشستم… اما نشستنم نتیجه داد و قهرمان عزیزما همه ی ما را مفتخر گردایند. نیکپاه عزیز ما بتو ارج می نهیم. تو پرچمدار غرور از دست رفته ای این مردمان هستی…

I felt so proud. I wept too when Nikpai cried blissfully [after the win]. Last night I woke up watching him on television till the last minute… But it is alright that I was awake, our dearest hero made us all proud. Dear Nikpah [Nikpai] we applaud you. You are the proud flag-bearer of the [Afghan] people…

Raymond Leong commented on Twitter:

Rohullah Nikpah is an inspiration to many. He won Afghanistan`s first Olympic medal in Beijing and he repeated it again in London!

Afghans around the world believed that Nikpai's bronze was more valuable than many countries' gold or silver medals.

Fariba Nawa, an Afghan-American journalist and author, wrote in New Media America:

In a year filled with suicide bombings, school poisonings and kidnappings, the bronze for Afghanistan was more than gold.

Nesar Ahmad Bahawi, another Afghan Taekwondo fighter, failed to beat his Italian rival Mauro Sarmiento in the repechage match for a bronze medal in men's under-80-kg category, finishing a step away from a medal. The 28-year-old athlete who had been Afghanistan's flag-bearer during the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, suffered a leg injury during the fight.

Taekwondo fighter Nesar Ahmad Bahawi was a step away from bringing Afghanistan another Olympic medal in London. Screenshot from video “Afghan taekwondo star aims high” uploaded on YouTube by AFP on July 13, 2012.

Nesar Ahmad Bahawi carrying Afghanistan's flag at the opening ceremony of London Olympics. Screenshot from video “Afghanistan at the London 2012 Olympic Ceremony” uploaded August 9, 2012, by YouTube user aseman1994.

Sven T. Rebbin wrote on Twitter:

Nesar Ahmad Bahawi deserves great respect for having gone through Taekwondo battle after battle at these Olympics with a heavy injury…

Ahmad Farzad Lami, an Afghan Journalist and blogger tweeted:

Nesar Ahmad Bahawi is much more beloved today than he was yesterday. We're proud of you.

Afghans around the world were proud of the six athletes representing Afghanistan at the London Olympics. The participation of these athletes in the top international competition has been seen as beneficial for the country's sports. Currently, athletes in Afghanistan lack modern facilities, equipment, and support to master in their sports. Engaging in sports is particularly difficult for the country's girls and women.

One of the athletes representing Afghanistan at the Games was 23-year-old female runner Tahmina Kohistani. In a post published in The Telegraph, she wrote about her Olympic experience:

Getting medals from the Olympic Games is very difficult for every athlete and for my country and me, it is even harder. The training facilities are much worse than most other countries so we cannot prepare as well. But I knew I was not going to win a medal when I came here; I am here to begin a new era for the women of Afghanistan to show people that we can do the same things that people from other countries can do. There is no difference between us.

Perhaps the most important outcome of the Afghan athletes' participation in London Olympics and Nikpai's bronze is a sense of unity that has emerged as hundreds of thousands of Afghans from different ethnic, regional, and religious backgrounds watched on TV the country's athletes compete in London.

Lina Rozbih-Haidari, an Afghan journalist, wrote on her Facebook page [fa]:

تجربه اتحاد میان تمام مردم افغانستان را در طول مسابقات المپیک خارق العاده بود، آنقدر حس خوبی بود که به گفته تعدادی آرزو میکنم که سیصد و شصت و پنج روز سال المپیک باشد و ملت افغانستان متحد با هم به دری و پشتو و هزاره گی و ازبکی….شعار داده و از یک افغان خود حمایت و پشتیبانی کنند، ایا میتوان این اتحاد را در میان ملتی که همه انها مساویانه از جنگ صدمه دیده اند زنده نگه داشت…به چند روز المپیک فکر کنید که چقدر بدور از تبعیض و تنفر با یکدیگر یکجا بودید، به حس خوبی که این اتحاد در میان یک ملت دارد، به شادی که در پیروزی همه با هم داشتیم، به اندوهی که در شکست با هم تجربه کردیم…افغانستان را تنها همین اتحاد میان شما نجات خواهد داد و نه چیز بیشتر…..

The feeling of unity among the Afghan people during Olympic games was extraordinary. It was so sensational that some wished that the 365 days of the year were Olympic and the Afghanistan nation jointly supported one Afghan [athlete] in Dari, Pashto, Hazaragi, Uzbek [languages]. This would have also made possible the unity among other nations affected by war… Think of Olympic days and remember without spitefulness and discrimination that you were together. [Remember] the sense of unity of the nation, the joy we felt after each victory [of our athletes], the sadness we experienced after [their] defeats… Nothing but this unity can rescue Afghanistan.

Kabul residents watch Rohullah Nikpai facing an Iranian rival at the London Olympics. Image by Kawoon Khamoosh, used with permission.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Colombia Adds Gold and Bronze BMX Medals to their List

This post is part of our special coverage of the London 2012 Olympics.  

Colombia demonstrated such excitement with respect to the last two medals that were won in the BMX (Bicycle motocross) competition by Mariana Pajón, who won the second gold medal in Colombia's olympic history, and Carlos Oquendo, who won the bronze. With these two achievements, Colombia totaled eight medals in the London 2012 games.

Colombians responded and expressed themselves on Twitter with particularly patriotic sentiments. Felipe Londoño (@FelipeLondoo2) [es], for example, thanked both athletes for the good image they have given to the country:

@FelipeLondoo2: Mariana Pajón y Carlos Oquendo hacen quedar hoy el Nombre del País en alto. MUCHAS GRACIAS

@FelipeLondoo2: Mariana Pajón and Carlos Oquendo really boosted the country's reputation.  THANK YOU SO MUCH

Mariana Pajón. Photo from Flickr user smokeghost under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Alejandra Echeverry (@AlejaEcheverryA) [es] used the provincial government of Antioquia's official hashtag to mention that the two athletes were born in that region:

@AlejaEcheverryA: Mariana Pajon y Carlos Mario Oquendo Son de Antioquia #FelizCumpleañosAntioquia

@AlejaEcheverryA: Mariana Pajon and Carlos Mario Oquendo are from Antioquia #FelizCumpleañosAntioquia (#HappyBirthdayAntioquia)

Jenny Cruz García (@Jenny_CruzGarci) [es] valued the joy that the two BMX riders' achievement has produced:

@Jenny_CruzGarci: La felicidad que Mariana Pajón y Carlos Mario Oquendo hoy nos dieron a los colombianos, no tiene precio. #Grandes

@Jenny_CruzGarci: The happiness that Mariana Pajón and Carlos Mario Oquendo have given us Colombians today is priceless. #Grandes (#TheGreats)

The blogosphere has also been actively following these olympic triumphs. While the blog Mundo Deportivo highlighted [es] the two medals, the blog Deporte stressed [es] the fact that Mariana Pajón's medal is the second gold medal in Colombia's history in the Olympics. They also looked back at the achievements in these games in the same post, and confirmed that this was the country's best performance in their 80 years of olympic participation:

Un oro, tres platas, cuatro bronces y catorce diplomas olímpicos, además de 104 atletas compitiendo en los Juegos Olímpicos (delegación más grande de la historia) confirman que Londres 2012 es la mejor participación colombiana en la historia de los Juegos Olímpicos.

One gold, three silver, four bronze, and fourteen olympic diplomas, in addition to the 104 athletes competing in the Olympic Games (largest delegation in history) confirm that London 2012 had the best Colombian participation in the history of the Olympic Games.

On Sunday, August 12, Mariana Pajón (@marianapajon) [es] shared her excitement about carrying the Colombian flag during the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games:

@marianapajon: Para cerrar con broche de oro + orgullosa no puedo estar al llevar mi bandera en la clausura, unos juegos in http://instagr.am/p/OP4e6ZDEGA/ 

@marianapajon: To end on a high note, I couldn't be prouder to carry my flag during the closing ceremony http://instagr.am/p/OP4e6ZDEGA/ 

This post is part of our special coverage of the London 2012 Olympics.  

Nicaragua: A Blogger's Olympic Dream

Mildred Largaespada from the blog 1001 trópicos [es] shares her “Olympic dream.” In 1984, Mildred was part of Nicaragua's National Junior Basketball Team and participated in the Central American Games of that year in Guatemala. Her dream was to make it to the Olympics, but after losing in Guatemala she traded her basketball shoes for a career in journalism.

Ecuador: Sprinter Álex Quiñónez Brings Country to Standstill During Final

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Ecuador has a total of 36 athletes representing the country and participating in 11 events at the London 2012 Olympics. Despite the president of the Ecuadorian National Olympic Commitee, Danilo Carrera [es] feeling confident about success in canoeing and boxing, it was actually Álex Quiñónez, a sprinter from the coastal city of Esmeraldas, who had the whole country sitting on the edge of their seats as the people of Ecuador took to Twitter and other social networking sites to offer him support. Quiñónez was the only South American athlete to qualify for the 200m finals, having finished in seventh place.

YouTube user paul21042007 uploaded the following video of Álex Quiñónez after he got through to the final:

Quiñónez (@AlexQ1989) [es] reached the finals of the Olympics for the first time in his sporting career. Together with this, Quiñónez's popularity also rose rapidly on social networking sites. To highlight this, having got through to the semifinals, the sprinter only had 50 followers on Twitter growing to 246 fifteen minutes later. At the time of writing this post, Quiñónez had more than 12,000 followers. Messages of support from the people of Ecuador can be found by searching on the hashtag, #AlexQuiñonez [es].

On August 7, the Ecuadorian National Olympic Committee (@ECUADORolimpico) [es] posted a tweet:

@ECUADORolimpico: Por fin nombre de Ecuador retumba en Londres, alex quinonez gana au [sic] serie y pasa a semifinales wn [sic] 200m.

@ECUADORolimpico: At last, an Ecuadorian becomes a household name in London. Álex Quiñónez wins and gets through to the 200m semifinals.

Journalism student, Christian Pinzón (@Khriz199218) [es], wrote:

@Khriz199218: No hay duda que el mayor logro que ha realizado por el momento #AlexQuiñonez es paralizar todo un país, solo porque eres #OrgulloEcuatoriano

@Khriz199218: There is no doubt that the greatest ever achievement of #AlexQuiñonez has brought Ecuador to a standstill because you are #OrgulloEcuatoriano (Ecuadorian Pride)

Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso (@LassoGuillermo) [es] tweeted:

@LassoGuillermo: Gracias Álex Quiñónez por llevarnos a esta final olímpica de los 200 metros planos. Una gran representación para nuestro país.

@LassoGuillermo: Thanks Álex Quiñónez for reaching the 200m finals for Ecuador. You are a true ambassador for the country.

William Vite Huerta (@wvite) [es] looks forward to the 2016 Olympics:

@wvite: Lo de #AlexQuiñonez fue algo de destacar, en #Brasil2016 creo que será otra historia, a prepararse…

@wvite#AlexQuiñonez was really something but his performance in #Brasil2016 will be out of this world. Let the training commence…

Álex Quiñónez competing in the 200m final in the London 2012 Olympics. Photography courtesy of Flickr user Alexandre Moreau | Photography. Licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Journalist and television presenter María Teresa Guerrero (@flacaguerrerog) [es] also congratulated Quiñónez:

@flacaguerrerog: Estar en una final es pa los grandes!! Mi respeto y admiración para #AlexQuinonez #poderesmeraldeño

@flacaguerrerog: Being part of the final is a massive achievement!! Well-deserved respect and admiration for #AlexQuinonez #poderesmeraldeño

Angie Pérez (@anni1595) [es] tweeted:

@anni1595: Quizas no es muy conocido, pero que orgullo que un ecuatoriano sea el septimo mejor del mundo #AlexQuiñonez!

@anni1595: He may not be well known but how good does it feel that an Ecuadorian ranks seventh in the world #AlexQuiñonez!

Juan Fernando Velasco (@juanfervelasco) [es], a singer from the capital city of Ecuador, Quito, also posted a tweet about Quiñónez ranking seventh in the world:

@juanfervelasco: Querido Alex Quiñónez: Qué se siente ser el número 7 de entre 7 mil millones?! Grande compatriota!!

@juanfervelasco: Dear Alex Quiñónez. How does it feel to rank seventh among seven billion people? Hats off to you mate!

The national media also reported that the Ecuadorian government offered a brand new home [es] for the sprinter and his family to acknowledge his achievement in London 2012. Sports Minister Jose Francisco Cevallos confirmed this news. It goes without saying that the athlete will return to Ecuador feeling proud with his head held high sound in the knowledge that he has achieved something great.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

August 12 2012

Cameroon: Olympic Escape - Blame the System, Not the Athletes

This post is part of our special coverage of the London 2012 Olympics.

[All links are to French-language articles, unless otherwise stated.]

The London Olympics have been in full swing since July 27, 2012 and even if Cameroon has not won any medals, its athletes are still the subject of much conversation. This is because they excel in a ‘discipline' which many have already described as the “Europathlon” (the defection of athletes in London during the Games).

The story of the escape of seven of the 33 athletes representing the Cameroonian delegation has become fodder for the international press. Even CNN and the New York Times [en] have reported on it. The European media, for the most part, point to an economic motive as the main factor behind these defections, which was also confirmed by the Cameroonian journalist Idriss Linge, on the website of the Journal du Cameroun:

Certains médias britanniques ont relevé le fait que ces défections pourraient trouver une justification dans la volonté de s’insérer en Europe, un environnement économiquement plus viable que leur pays. Citant une source camerounaise, l’agence Associated Press (AP) pour appuyer cette hypothèse a rappelé que le Cameroun selon les données du FMI (Fonds Monétaire International), est un pays où de nombreuses personnes vivent avec moins de 700 FCFA par jour.

Some British media noted that the defections could be justified by the desire of the athletes to establish themselves in Europe, an environment more economically viable than their home country. To support this hypothesis, citing a source in Cameroon, the Associated Press recalled that, according to the IMF (International Monetary Fund), Cameroon is a country where many people live on less than 700 Central African Francs per day.

And they are not the only ones to have thought of this explanation.

Abandoned stadium in Cameroon: photo by “10b travelling” on Flickr ( CC-License-BY-NC)

These defections simply highlight the malaise which affects all Cameroonian young people. Thus, according to the Cameroonian blogger Florian Nguimbis, these athletes are not to blame, but rather the entire system. He writes:

C’est assez triste néanmoins de voir que notre pays est devenu une prison dont tout le monde veut s’échapper à tout prix. Que peut-on reprocher à ces jeunes gens ? De n’avoir pas osé ? Ils se sont tout de même retrouvés aux JO, au prix d’une qualification. Ce sont des athlètes. Des gens qui ont pris leur destin en main et se sont spécialisés dans la pratique du sport de haut niveau. Mais voilà, le sein sensé les nourrir s’est révélé empoisonné. L’un d’eux Edingue est un nageur et chaque jour, je me demande comment ce jeune homme est parvenu à aller aux jeux. J’ai beau chercher dans mon esprit, je ne vois aucune piscine olympique dans ce pays. Idem pour le gros du contingent, les boxeurs. Je ne sais pas si vous connaissez le camp de l’unité, le temple de la boxe à Yaoundé. Une vieille bâtisse sale, croulante, obscure. Un antre glauque que quelques passionnés maintiennent à flot tant bien que mal en formant sans moyens ni matériel une jeunesse qui n’a que l’envie comme motivation. Mais malgré ça, deux des boxeurs étaient médaillés des derniers jeux africains, dont un en or !

It's rather sad, however, to see that our country has become a prison, from which everyone wants to escape at any cost. For what fault is it that we should blame these young people? That they have not tried hard enough? They are at the Olympics, after all, and they got there through qualification. They are athletes. People who have taken their destiny in their own hands, and who have specialized in the practice of high-performance sport. But now it seems, in a sense, that the sustenance on which they were raised proved poisonous. One of them, Edingue, is a swimmer, and every day I wonder how this young man was able to go to the Games. Try as I might to remember, I can't recall seeing any Olympic-size swimming pool in our country. The same can be said about the larger part of the athletic contingent, the boxers. I don't know if you have heard of Unity Camp, the boxing arena in Yaounde. An old, dirty building, dark and crumbling. A creepy lair, that some sports enthusiasts somehow keep afloat, without means or materials, thereby creating youths who have only envy as motivation. But despite that, two of those boxers were medalists at the last All-Africa Games, including one gold medal!

He added, as if to justify their defection:

Comment leur en vouloir ? Partir devient une nécessité, un devoir. Partir ou mourir. Partir ou voir son talent s’étioler jusqu’à ne devenir qu’un vague souvenir peuplant les soirées alcoolisées dans un bar pourri… ! Ce n’est pas la honte du Cameroun, ni celle de la majorité de notre peuple. Les responsables sont là. Tapis dans l’ombre mais pourtant connus. Ces vautours, ces vampires qui ponctionnent lentement mais sûrement le sang de la jeunesse, ses espoirs, ses rêves. Laissons les sportifs. Combien de jeunes gens profitent d’une bourse d’étude et ne reviennent jamais ? Combien de médecins s’en vont faire des stages et constatent que le bistouri est plus maniable en Europe qu’au Cameroun ?

How can we blame them? Leaving the country becomes a necessity, a duty. Leave, or die. Leave, or see one's talent wither, becoming only a distant memory, during drunken evenings in a shady bar! This is not the fault of Cameroon, nor that of the majority of our people. Those responsible are still there. They lurk in the shadows, but we know who they are. These vultures, these vampires, who slowly but surely drain the blood of youths, their hopes, their dreams. Leave these athletes alone. How many young people take advantage of a scholarship, and never return? How many doctors go to do internships in Europe, and find that the scalpel is more manageable there than in Cameroon?

Then who is to blame?

In this video uploaded by YouTube user africaplay2012, Boxer Thomas Essomba, one of the defecting athletes, spoke about the problems he experienced during training before the start of the Olympic Games.

Whether it is damaging to the image of the nation or not, many Cameroonians support these athletes. These defections should not be perceived as a betrayal to the nation, which used taxpayer money to pay for their stay in London. They should rather be seen in a different light. These athletes should not be blamed. At least not any more than the system in Cameroon, which pushes young people to migrate to Europe at all costs, or which justifies their desire to stay there, regardless of the dangers they may face everyday.

The same story is told by Josué Jean-René Mambo Moussio II, in comments published on Facebook. He believes that these athletes do not tarnish the image of Cameroon. At least, no more than it already is:

Mais quelle image notre pays lui-même se donne aux yeux du monde??? A choisir de vivre en Europe sans papiers avec l'espoir des lendemains meilleurs ou de vivre en Afrique où il n'y a aucun espoir, mon choix est vite fait… il y a misère et misère … on n'a pas le droit de juger les gens qui essayent désespérément de se sortir d'un quotidien incertains quelque soient les moyens, c'est une question de vie ou de mort et moi je suis fier de ces gens qui ont pu avoir le choix et qui ont choisi une vie hypothétique qu'une mort certaine.

But what image does our country itself present to the eyes of the world ? To choose to live illegally in Europe, in the hope of a better tomorrow, or to live in Africa, where there is no hope? My choice is quickly made … there is poverty and misery … we have no right to judge people who are trying desperately to escape from a daily life of uncertain means. It's a matter of life or death, and I am proud of those people who have had the opportunity to make that choice, and who have chosen the possibility of life, versus a certain death.

However, this phenomenon is not new, according to an Internet user on a Cameroonian online forum, who cites an article published in French newspaper Le Figaro:

La disparition d'athlètes à l'occasion de compétitions internationales est une tradition de longue date. Pendant la guerre froide, ces défections étaient favorablement accueillies par les pays occidentaux. Aux JO de 1956 à Melbourne, 45 sportifs hongrois avaient profité de la compétition pour demander l'asile, avec le soutien des États-Unis. Mais les pays riches ne sont plus aussi hospitaliers et voient désormais d'un mauvais œil ce phénomène récurrent.

The disappearance of athletes at international competitions is a longstanding tradition. During the Cold War, these defections were welcomed by Western nations. At the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, 45 Hungarian athletes took advantage of the competition to seek asylum, with the support of the United States. But rich countries are no longer so hospitable, and now take a dim view of this recurring phenomenon.

However, the defections of African athletes at such events can sometimes also be for political reasons. And in that case, Cameroonians are not the only ones to have done so.

This post is part of our special coverage of the London 2012 Olympics

East Timor: Marathoner Captures London Hearts

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Young marathoner Augusto Soares, 25, captured the hearts of the Olympic marathon audience with his perseverance and good humor. He competed in Beijing four years ago, but did not finish, so this time around his goal was to finish the race.

Much of the competition he was at the tail end; there was the sense that his smiling run was one of the closing moments of London 2012 Olympics. (He came in second to last with a time of 2:45:09.)

Augusto Soares of East Timor waves to the enthusiastic crowds who lined the streets of London Wall and Barbican. Photo by Richard Soans copyright Demotix (12/08/2012)

Augusto Soares of East Timor waves to the enthusiastic crowds who lined the streets of London Wall and Barbican. Photo by Richard Soans copyright Demotix (12/08/2012)

Annie Martin tweeted

The Olympic Marathon is brilliant, am waving my flags outside Monument. Love the straggler from Timor Leste beaming from ear to ear!

Chris Spillane tweeted

My favourite Olympian. Soares of East Timor in last place in the Men's Marathon. True Olympic spirit http://yfrog.com/obrxpmjj

Youtube user Marwat86 captured the cheering for Soares as he passed on his last lap.

The UN interviewed Soares and his team mate Juventina Napoleao, who started training only two months prior to the Olympics.

Soares was interviewed by blogger Celso Oliveira. He said one of his biggest motivations was to

liu husi partisipasaun Timor nian bele mos fo’o hanoin hikas fali ba maluk Timor oan sira nebe namkari lemo lemo iha ema rain katak Timor liberdade ona no moris iha dame nia laran.

through Timor's participation be able to remind Timorese people spread out all over the world that Timor is free already and living in peace

Soares said he would love to be an example for young people and develop sports in his young nation.

Maibe, hau labele halo buat ida se wainhira hau mesak, tamba bat hotu fila fali ba ema bo’ot sira. Hau bele dehan hau hari'i klubu ida atleta barak, maibe eventu la iha sa ida mak akontese, atleta sira treino ka sira ba fali sira nia fatin. Ne’e ita atu dezenvolve desporto?

But, I can't do anything if I am on my own, because everything goes back to our leaders. I can say I [will] create one club with many athletes, but if we have no events what will happen, athletes will train or they will go home. Is that going to develop sports?

Soares talks about how he was recruited personally as a schoolboy in Balibar, a mountain village above the capital, by Timorese Olympian Aguida Amaral.

Diak. Hau konhese desportu halai ne'e primeiro liu husi mana ida naran Aguida Fatima Amaral. Iha momentu ne’e, hau sei eskola iha foho i sei hela ho pai i mae. Depois loron ida mana ne’e to’o ba iha ami nia eskola atu registu ema atu tama iha mana nia klubu naran SLB. […] Hafoin ami treino iha neba mana ne’e hare ami nebe mak halai diak oitoan entaun foti ami tun mai hela no treino iha dili.

Well. I heard about running through a woman named Aguida Fatima Amaral. At that time, I was still in school in the mountains and I still lived with my mother and father. Then one day, this Aguida came to our school to register people for her club called SLB. […] Just as we trained up there, Aguida saw that we could run pretty well and she brought us down to Dili to train.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

China: Hurdler Liu Xiang's Olympic Failure Provokes Fierce Debate

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

No sports star has triggered a more heated discussion in China this Olympics than hurdler Liu Xiang. The former world-record holder of the 110-meter hurdles and 2004 Olympic champion in the same event, dropped out of the London Olympic Games without clearing a single hurdle in the race.

Achilles injury

As the first Chinese man to win an Olympic gold medal in track, Liu instantly became the hero of the entire nation after the 2004 Athens Olympics, as well as a recognizable face in various commercials. In a field that is traditionally dominated by sprinters from North America and Europe, the Chinese had finally made their voice heard.

However, after making a splash in 2004, Liu never satisfied Chinese aspirations to win an Olympic gold medal again in track and field. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Liu withdrew from his preliminary heat with Achilles tendon injuries and disappointed a billion Chinese fans.

The 2012 London Olympics for many was supposed to be his time for redemption, yet on Tuesday 7 August, he fell out of the opening heat again because of the same Achilles tendon injury.

Instead of directly exiting as he did four years ago, this time Liu hopped on one leg along the track and kissed what may be the final hurdle of his Olympic career before being helped into a wheelchair. Below is a YouTube video of Liu Xiang's Olympic game, uploaded by lokjoe2011:

Chinese netizens' reactions

The incident immediately sparked fierce discussions on Sina Weibo, a major social media platform in China. Some firmly believed Liu was playacting, referring to the scene when Liu crossed back to give the final hurdle a kiss. A news director from Hong Kong wrote in her Weibo [zh] (post since deleted):

@酱缸外的秦枫 四年,一运动员,男性,上海人,成熟了:08年苦肉加悲情,直接退赛了,今年依旧苦肉计,但知道演场戏!

@酱缸外的秦枫 Four years. The male athlete from Shanghai is more mature – in 2008, he just quit the game in the name of injury. Now he is also injured but he knows to act!

Others showed compassion and support for Liu Xiang. Famous blogger Li Chengpang is sympathetic towards Liu [zh]:

@李承鹏 大多数人一生没踩过塑胶跑道,全国不足五千人练跨栏,很多县城连正经田径场都没有…让刘翔承担13亿人56民族的担子,太累。这跟举国不足万人练足球要国足夺冠一个道理。金牌不是硬道理,普及才是硬道理。哪天奥运吸收麻将为比赛项目,无论裁判怎么坏、外媒怎么黑,我们一定是冠军。刘翔,生活还要继续。

@李承鹏 Most people haven’t stepped on a plastic runway in their life. Less than 5,000 people in this country practice hurdles. And some towns even have no formal track fields. So it’s unfair to let Liu Xiang undertake what 1.3 billion people wouldn't. It’s like, China has no more than 10,000 people playing football, but you want the Chinese team to win the World Cup. The gold medal is not the most important thing while the popularization of sports is. If Mahjong [a Chinese traditional game] is one of the games in the Olympics, China definitely will win the gold medal no matter how unfair the referees treat us. Liuxiang, life is to be continued.

Some blamed Liu’s failure for the endless commercials, media interviews and political positions that may have consumed his energy:

@师北宸 刘翔是拿你我缴税的钱训练;他们拿钱的时候没有征得我们的同意,也没有公开数额;刘翔是全国政协委员。调侃他,批评他,在你们为他“心疼落泪”的时候冷静指出它,还有比这更负责的表现么。

@师北宸 [zh] [original post deleted] It’s we taxpayers that funded Liu’s training. They took the money without our permission or announcing the amount. Liu is also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. We tease him, criticize him, and point the problems out when you feel sorry and cry for him. Are there any reactions more responsible than these?

In fact, many netizens hold the view that Liu should assume responsibility for his performance since he received all training free from the taxpayer. On Tianya BBS, netizens also expressed their dismay. For example, 晓枫残月1984 [zh] said:

如果刘翔是靠自己,那他不欠谁的,谁也没权力对他说三道四问题是,他花的是纳税人的钱他一年光吃特供的钱,就能在山区给1000个孩子解决一年的午餐钱这还不算别的,别的更是大头,花的全是纳税人的钱花纳税人的钱,纳税人当然有权力对他要求拿出成绩.

@晓枫残月1984 No one could dish the dirt on Liu if he had not taken a penny from the people. But all the money he used is from the taxpayer. Only the money for his food could support a year’s lunch for 1,000 children in rural China. Taxpayers have the right to criticize Liu’s performance.

Some pointed out that under the China’s “Juguo tizhi”- literally the ‘whole-nation' sports system - athletes have been pushed too far in pursuit of gold medals.

@陆天明体育总局的领导你们在干什么?让大家心目中的英雄最后以这样的状态结束运动生命,你们到底怎么想的?我想全国人民一定不会轻饶了你们在这件事上的责任。必须追究这些当官的责任!!把一个运动员使到这个份上,让他出这种丑,举世皆无。残忍之极!!刘翔,你太悲哀了!!! 在我们的体制下,运动员只是个棋子!! 我只希望在再被各种各样的身外之力量绑架,真正发挥自己的天才,做一回自己!!

@陆天明 [zh] What are the sports authorities doing? Why let the hero end up like this? I think people will not ignore the responsibilities they should take. They should be held responsible for this! They utilized an athlete like this and embarrassed him in public. It’s so cruel! Liu Xiang, you are so pathetic! Our athletes are totally controlled by the state. I only hope that our athletes can be themselves and take advantage of their talents.

The ‘whole nation' sports system

After Liu Xiang's withdrawal from the 2008 Beijing Games, concerns over Liu's fitness dominated the news. He had surgery in the United States and returned to the sport in 2010, after changing his technique out of the blocks. He’s been hampered by back and foot complaints in the past month, and although he has taken good medical care, the Achilles injury is still there.

On Thursday 16 August, Liu was sent to a renowned private hospital in London to receive surgery on his right Achilles tendon, which was reportedly very successful. In fact, days before Liu Xiang's crash and burn, on some blogs, people had already noted that Liu was not at his best and were expecting him to fail. Others wondered why his trainer kept hidden the truth about the problems.

The Chinese 'whole-nation' sports system has received sweeping criticism from western media. Bloggers linked several scandals related to Chinese Olympians to the country's blinding pursuit of medals at all costs. The young talent, once selected by the provincial or state sports teams, are shut up in closed training schools thereafter and deprived of almost all other life skills.

Despite the criticism, China's officials who rely on the system to produce champions that can puff up national pride, have bristled at the criticism. Xu Guoqi, a professor at the University of Hong Kong and an expert in Chinese sports, pointed out that “as long as the Chinese are not confident enough of themselves in the world, as long as the regime has a legitimacy problem, it will continue its ‘juguo tizhi'.”

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Mexico Wins Historic Football Gold Medal

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

For the first time in the country's Olympic history, Mexico won a gold medal in Men's Football. On August 11, 2012, the country celebrated as the Olympic team beat Brazil 2-1. Crowds all over Mexico waved flags and danced in squares and in the streets; thousands of fans gathered in a massive celebration at the emblematic Independence Angel in Mexico City.

On Twitter, the discussion became very intense, and even humorous. Some of the main hashtags during and after the game were #VamosMexico (”Go Mexico”), #MéxicoDeOro (”Golden Mexico”), #SomosOro (”We are Gold”), and #MexicoCampeón (”Mexico is the champion”).

Marithé Ayala Ortiz, (@werismao) [es] stressed how early people had to wake up on a Saturday morning to watch the game, at 9am in Central Mexico:

@werismao: Realmente tienes la pasión y el amor por tu México si en sábado estas despierto a esta hora #MéxicoDeOro #Londres2012

@werismao: You love and are really passionate about Mexico if you are awake this early on a Saturday #MéxicoDeOro #Londres2012

Photo of Mexico's Olympic Football team celebrating their gold medal. Photo shared on the Mexican national football team's Facebook page “Selección Nacional de México”.

Politics and disappointment regarding the newly elected president were part of the online discussion as well. Kris P (@tititila) [es] wrote:

@tititila: Ojalá gane México a ver si puedo olvidar un ratito el pasado 1 de julio y los próximos 6 años uhuuuuuu!

@tititila: I hope Mexico wins, let's see if at least I can forget what happened on July 1st and [what will happen] during the next 6 years uhuuuuuu!

Fernando Delaflor (@F3rn) [es] joked about his feelings while listening to the national anthem:

@F3rn: Lloré más cantando el Himno Nacional que cuando me cortó mi ex.

@F3rn: I cried more when I sang the National anthem than when my ex-girlfriend broke up with me.

BBC correspondent in Mexico Ignacio de los Reyes (@bbc_delosreyes) [es] described the spirit in the capital city as “euphoric” at the end of the match:

@bbc_delosreyes: México roza su Oro, euforia en las calles del DF y todos gritando “Vámonos al Ángel!” Hoy esta ciudad se va a volver loca!

@bbc_delosreyes: Mexico won Gold, euphoria in the streets of Mexico City (DF) and everybody screams “Let's go to the Angel”! Today the city is going to go mad!

Actor Gael Garcia Bernal (@GaelGarciaB) [es] also celebrated the historic match for Mexico:

@GaelGarciaB: A llorar un ratito. Quedito! Ganamos carajo, ganamos!

@GaelGarciaB: Let's cry a little. Quiet! We won, damn it, we won!

Lety Arr (@letylectric) [es] came to 3 important conclusions by the end of the match:

@letylectric: Ese gol de México rompió: 1. El récord olímpico. 2. Récord mundial (en una final). 3. El corazón de millones de brasileños. #MexicoDeOro

@letylectric: Mexico's goal broke: 1. an Olympic record 2. A world record (in a final match) 3. The heart of millions of Brazilians #MexicoDeOro

Finally, this tweet by Yazmin Lopez (@YazLopez) [es] reflects the positive attitude of Mexican netizens:

@YazLopez: Me gustas así: feliz, vencedor y contento! Te amo México!

@YazLopez: I like you like this: happy, victorious and content! I love you Mexico!

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

August 11 2012

Argentina Wins its First Gold Medal in London 2012

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

On Friday, August 10, Argentina celebrated its first gold medal in the London Olympics; Sebastian Crismanich [es], born in the Corrientes province, competed in the 80 kilogram category in Taekwondo, beating Spain's representative Nicolás Garcia Hamme 1-0.

In Argentina, the hashtag #Crismanich [es] became a trending topic, and users expressed their happiness as well as their surprise for this achievement in a sport that is not as popular as other sports, like football. Among several tweets, Nico Fernandez (@nicolinoribas) [es] writes:

@nicolinoribas: Ahora son todos fanáticos del Taekwondo. No rompan las pelotas. Hace 12 horas no sabían ni que competía #Crismanich.  Hipócritas.

@nicolinoribas: Now everyone if a fan of Taekwondo. Yeah right. 12 hours ago no one knew that #Crismanich was competing. Hypocrites.

Similarly, Jose (@vjosesc) [es] blames journalists for the lack of coverage:

@vjosesc: Hace 2 días no sabíamos que #Crismanich tenia posibilidades de ganar una medalla de oro. Falla de los periodistas que cubrieron los #JJOO .

@vjosesc: Two days ago we didn't know that #Crismanich had any chance of winning a gold medal. Journalists who cover the #JJOO [”Olympic games”] failed.

However, most users are expressing their joy over Crismanich's achievement, like Juancho (@kiddo72) [es], Perickles (@peripepe) [es] and Abel Racedo (@AbelRacedo) [es], among others.

Argentinian news agency Telam summarizes [es] this achievement and the history of gold medals for Argentina:

Crismanich, de 25 años, se erigió entonces en el primer medallista olímpico de la Argentina en la disciplina (que empezó a disputarse en Sydney 2000) y además cortó una racha de 64 temporadas en las que un argentino, en manera individual, no conseguía la medalla dorada.

Los boxeadores Pascual Pérez y Rafael Iglesias y el maratonista Delfo Cabrera, también en Londres, pero en 1948, habían sido los anteriores deportistas nacionales, en subir al escalón más alto de la premiación.

Crismanich, 25 years old, emerged as the first gold medalist for Argentina in the discipline (which began to be played in Sydney 2000) and also ended a 64 season streak in which an Argentine, on an individual basis, had not gotten a gold medal.

Boxers Pascual Pérez and Rafael Iglesias, and marathoner Delfo Cabrera, also in London, but in 1948, were the former national athletes to climb to the top of the medal podium.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Thumbnail image from Sebastian Crismanich's [es] Facebook page.

August 10 2012

Colombia: Gold for Cyclist Mariana Pajón

Colombians on Twitter anxiously awaited the performance of BMX cyclist Mariana Pajón. Hashtags like ORO (”gold”), #ÁnimoMariana (”Go Mariana”), or Mariana Pajón became local Trending Topics before and after Pajón won the gold medal. With this achievement, Colombia ratifies the country's historic performance at the this year's Olympics and now ranks number 33 in the current medal count.

Colombia Achieves Historical Results in London 2012

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Update (9 August, 2012): Hours after this post was published, Jackeline Rentería won Colombia's sixth medal at the London 2012 Olympics. Rentería won a bronze medal in wrestling.

In the history of Colombia in the Olympic Games, London 2012 has consolidated itself as the year of the country's best Olympic performance. This delegation has exceeded what was achieved in Munich 1972, where Colombia obtained one silver medal and two bronze, and even Sidney 2000, when Colombia received its only gold medal in weightlifting by Maria Isabel Urrutia.

This time Colombia sent a delegation of more than 100 athletes, in which the women's delegation [es] made up the highest percentage in the Americas (57.8). Up until now the women in the delegation had obtained a bronze medal in judo by the judoka Yuri Alvear and a silver medal in triple jump by the athlete Caterine Ibarguen. [Editor's note: See update above]. The men in the Colombian delegation have met their wining quota with a bronze medal won by Oscar Muñoz [es] in taekwondo, 58 kilos, and two silver medals: one obtained by Rigoberto Uran in road racing, and the other by Óscar Figueroa in weight lifting with an Olympic record of 177 kg.

Óscar Figueroa, silver medal in weightlifting. Photo from Flicker user Peter J Dean, used under Creative Common license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Spirits are high with the hope of a possible gold medal from the cyclist Mariana Pajón, with which Colombia would secure its position between the top 30 on the medal charts and would exceed the experst' forecasts.

These five medals have inspired excitement among the people, who have shared their joy on the Internet in light of their athletes' good performance. Social networks have also contributed reports, pictures, and various expressions.

Marisol Ochoa (@marisol8acardon) [es] values the representation of women in sports:

@marisol8acardon: Me enorgullece más que una mujer colombiana gane una medalla en los juegos olímpicos a que gane una corona por su belleza física.

@marisol8acardon: I feel prouder that a Colombian woman would win a medal in the Olympic games than win a crown for their physical beauty.

Highlighting the performance of the women in the delegation, María Isabel (‏@Marita1899) [es] refers herself with pride to her compatriot Caterine Ibarguen:

@Marita1899: Caterine Ibarguen… Ejemplo de vida y ORGULLO COLOMBIANO!!

@Marita1899: Caterine Ibarguen… Life example and COLOMBIAN PRIDE!!!

Meanwhile the journalist Pablo (@pablodenarvaez7) [es] acts as commentator on August 1 in the moment that Yuri Alvear begins her competition:

@pablodenarvaez7: La yudoka colombiana Yuri Alvear ya combate en los JJOO. ¡Atención!

@pablodenarvaez7:  The Colombian judoka Yuri Alvear will now compete in the Olympic Games. Attention!

María Nelly Prada (@marianellyprada) [es], meanwhile, values the new medal of the young Oscar Muñoz in taekwondo:

@maríanellyprada:  La imagen del día en los olímpicos para mi fue la de Oscar Muñoz… medalla de bronce, y sin tanta propaganda.

@maríanellyprada: The image of the day in the Olympics for me was that of Oscar Muñoz… bronze medal, and without so much publicity.

Highlighting the participation of Oscar Figuera, the use @HEVERTH5 [es] writes:

@HEVERTH5: La constancia vale plata-La medalla al pesista Oscar Figueroa en los olímpicos de Londres

@HEVERTH5: Consistency is worth gold- the medal for the weightlifter Oscar Figueroa in the London Olympics.

And Paola Posso Vergara‏ (@PAOLAGAGAPOSSO) [es] praises Rigoberto Urán:

@paolagagaposso: ¡Orgullosa de Rigoberto Urán!

@paolagagaposso: Proud of Rigoberto Uran!

Facebook [es] and blogs have dedicated [es] special entries [es] to the medals [es], the athletes [es] and their achievements [es]. But, in spite of so much excitement [es] and enthusiasm, others also make analogies [es] about the difficult realities that the country faces.

Daniel Navia (@Daniel_Navia) [es], wrote the following when Colombia had obtained the cyclist Rigoverto Urán's first silver medal:

@Daniel_Navia: Colombia ya tiene una medalla de plata. Solo nos falta arreglar el sector salud, educativo y político para ser un país viable.

@Daniel_Navia: Now Colombia has a silver medal.  Now we only need to fix the health, education, and political sector in order to be a viable country.

Later, Miller Castañeda D (@millercasta) [es] honored Oscar Figueroa's performance:

@Millercasta: Siempre será mejor una medalla de plata y récord olímpico para Colombia en pesas, a una medalla de oro en corrupción. Grande Figueroa.

@Millercasta: A silver medal and Olympic record in weightlifting will always be better for Colombia, than a gold medal in corruption. Good work Figueroa.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

August 09 2012

Tajikistan: Female Boxer Fights Odds, Wins Olympic Bronze

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Mavzuna Chorieva, a 19-year-old athlete from Tajikistan, won a bronze medal in the women's lightweight boxing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The fighter who was Tajikistan's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony eliminated the highly ranked Chinese boxer Cheng Dong in a quarterfinal match on August 6, before losing her semi-final against veteran Irish fighter Katie Taylor two days later. The 26-year-old Irish who had previously won four world championships and five European titles consequently took gold.

Chorieva won the Olympic medal against all odds. In Tajikistan, where boxing and other combat sports are mostly denied to women, for many years the fighter had to disguise herself as a boy in order to take part in competitions. Even after Chorieva was allowed to participate in tournaments, she had to box with men because there were simply no female fighters to train with. Moreover, last year the athlete underwent kidney surgery which risked leaving her unable to compete internationally.

Mavzuna Chorieva, Tajik boxer who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Screenshot from BBC video”Tajik female boxer's hopes for Olympic games” uploaded July 10, 2012, by YouTube user Rebecca Leighton.

In Tajikistan, Chorieva has to box with men because there are no female fighters to train with. Screenshot from BBC video”Tajik female boxer's hopes for Olympic games” uploaded July 10, 2012, by YouTube user Rebecca Leighton.

(Watch the pre-Olympics BBC video report about Mavzuna Chorieva, ”Tajik female boxer's hopes for Olympic games,” here).

Delight at home

Chorieva's bronze medal has delighted fans in Tajikistan who earlier saw the country's main Olympic medal hopefuls demolished in men's wrestling and judo. After it became clear that Chorieva was guaranteed to bring home a medal, her success has dominated discussion on the Tajik segment of Facebook and on news forums. For most people in Tajikistan, the boxer's bronze does not matter any less than Olympic gold or silver. Moreover, Tajik citizens are confident that the young athlete's victory is just the first major step in her sports career.

Mehrdad Khayrullopur wrote [tj] on Facebook:

Ofarin bar Mavzuna. Inshoalloh dar oyanda sohibi medali tillo ham meshavad. Bo sazovor gashtan bo medali birinji uro tabrik meguyem.

Well done, Mavzuna. God willing, she will win a gold medal in future too. Congratulations on claiming a bronze medal, which she deserved.

Another Facebook user, Bakhtiyor Faysolloev, added [tj]:

Хайр аз Мавзунахони азиз хеле миннатдорем, ки нагузошт мо хушку холи аз ин Олимпиада баргардем.

We are really grateful to Mavzuna for ensuring that [the Tajikistan team] doesn't return from the Olympics empty-handed.

Ali Mastov suggested [ru]:

Надо сказать что Мавзуна проиграла не кому нибудь, а 4хкаратному чемпиону мира. Будь жребий по удачнее наша гордость могла бы и выйти в финал. Еще раз мои поздравление Мавзуну и ее тренерам!!!

I must say that Mavzuna didn't lose to a complete nobody, she was defeated by a four-time world champion [in boxing]. Had [Chorieva's] placing been different, she could have progressed to the finals. Once again, I would like to congratulate Mavzuna and her coaches!!!

Tajik musician Olim Shirinov also commented [ru] on Chorieva's success on Facebook:

Эта девочка , без лишних слов, сделала для страны куда больше многих любителей потрепать языком… От всей души поздравляю Мавзуну с прекрасным ввыступлением на Олимпиаде, а всех нас с тем, что у нас есть такие спортсмены!

Without talking much, this girl has done much more for the country than all those who like to talk… I would like to sincerely congratulate Mavzuna with a great performance at the Olympics; and congratulations to us all for having such athletes!

Shabnam Azizullaeva chimed in [ru]:

Мавзуна по-любому молодец! Ей только 19 и вся карьера впереди!..

Well done, Mavzuna, in any case! She is just 19, and she has her entire [sports] career ahead of her.

More than just a medal

Comments in social media indicate that for many Internet users in Tajikistan, Mavzuna Chorieva's bronze means much more than just an Olympic success. Journalist Salim Aioubzod suggested [tj] on Facebook :

Мавзуна фақат Мавзуна нест, балки яке аз чунин рамзҳои ҳувият ва ваҳдати миллист.

Mavzuna is not just Mavzuna; she is [also] a symbol of the essence and unity of [our] nation.

Other netizens view the female boxer's achievement as an indication of broader changes in Tajikistan. For example, Jasur Ahurov suggested on Twitter that Chorieva has “broken major stereotypes about Tajik women…”

Suhrob Kasymov proposed [ru] that the athlete's success is another indication of the crucial role that women play in Tajik society:

Опять женщины тянут всю страну за собой. Вновь таджикские женщины делают все за таджикских мужчин, даже медали теперь выигрывают за  таджикских мужчин…

Once again, women are at the forefront of the country's [development]. Once again, Tajik women rather than Tajik men are doing everything; they rather than Tajik men are now winning medals…

Muhayyo Nuriddinova wrote [ru] optimistically:

Надеюсь Чориева станет стимулом для других таджичек и ряд чемпионок пополнится в ближайшем будущем. Не важно, победит или нет, она уже нарушила стереотип нашего общества, оказывается таджички способны на многое…

I hope Chorieva will become a motivation for other Tajik girls and women, and we will have more female champions in future. It doesn't matter whether she wins or loses, [for] she has already broken a social stereotype. [She has shown] that Tajik girls and women can achieve a lot…

Blogger Harsavor explains [ru] why Chorieva's medal means so much for Tajikistan:

Mедаль Мавзуны особенная именно потому, что ее принесла нашей стране девушка. Да, в Таджикистане со спортом серьезные проблемы, но в женском спорте вообще давно пора кричать “караул”. Стереотипы, культурные ограничения и традиции являются все более серьезным барьером на пути развития женского спорта в стране… Соответсвенно, олимпийский успех Мавзуны способен разрушить имеющиеся в нашем обществе стереотипы относительно занятия девушек спортом, а также послужить отличным примером для остальных девушек, которые хотят заниматься спортом вопреки превалирующему общественному мнению.

Mavzuna's medal is so special because it was claimed for our country by a girl. Yes, Tajikistan has serious problems when it comes to sports in general, but women's sports finds itself [in a particularly dire situation]. Stereotypes, cultural limitations, and traditions all serve as serious obstacles to the development of women's sports in the country… Thus, Mavzuna's Olympic success might break social stereotypes concerning women's engagement in sports and serve as a great example for other girls who want to go in for sports despite the prevailing public attitudes.

However, some netizens believe that it doesn't actually matter that Tajikistan's Olympic medal was won by a girl. For example, Olesya Alena Pashchenko wrote [ru] on Facebook:

Главное, что спорт в стране возрождается. И неважно, кто- мужчина или женщина принес Первую Олимпийскую медаль в копилку Таджикистана. Главное - гимн прозвучал на всех континентах и о моей Родине миллионы людей будут знать теперь как о государстве, в котором есть ТАКИЕ спортсмены!..

The most important thing is that sports is being revived in the country. It doesn't matter who brought Tajikistan its first Olympic medal [in London] - man or woman. What matters is that our national anthem was heard on all continents, and millions of people will now know my Fatherland as a country which has SUCH athletes!..

Debating women's role

Yet, not everyone agrees that the patriarchal society should give in and allow females to compete in combat sports and martial arts. For instance, Rustam Khotamov left [ru] the following comment on the Asia-Plus news website:

Она же таджичка, мусульманка! Ей бы замуж выйти и детей растить, а не прыгать по рингу как обезьяна и драться с другими женщинами. Позор! Как ее родители только позволили ей заняться боксом?

But she is a Tajik, a Muslim! She'd better get married and raise children rather than jumping in the boxing ring like a monkey and fighting other women. Shame! How could her parents let her go in for boxing?

The comment was quickly disapproved of, with several users criticizing Khotamov for being “backward” and “short-sighted”. This demonstrates that younger, well-educated, and urban-based Tajiks - the group that has Internet access and reads news online - are probably less prejudiced about women's engagement in sports and their social role in general than their older, less educated, and rural-based compatriots.

Overall, the reaction of Internet users in Tajikistan to Chorieva's Olympic bronze has been one of jubilation. Perhaps, the following comment [tj] left on Facebook by Daler Fayzov, best summarizes the Tajikistanis' view of the female boxer's achievement:

Медали биринчии ту барои мо тилло,тиллоят бриллиант,новобаста аз ин хама,ту аллакай кахрамони,Мавзуна!

Your bronze medal is gold for us, and your gold is diamond. [I]rrespective of everything, you are already a champion, Mavzuna!

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Kazakhstan: ‘Imported' Olympic Champions Cause Controversy

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

The 2012 Olympic Games in London are already a huge success for Kazakhstan. Its athletes have so far won six gold medals, with four golds taken by the country's weightlifters.

Two golds for Kazakhstan have been claimed by Chinese-born female athletes, Zulfia Chinshanlo and Maiya Maneza. Both athletes are ethnically Dungan, a group that originates from northwestern China, many of whom fled to Central Asia after converting to Islam in the 19th century.

The Olympic success of Kazakhstan's “imported” weightlifters has stirred a lot of controversy in mainstream and social media. Before the Olympics, Kazakh officials were reluctant to acknowledge the Chinese roots of Chinshanlo and Maneza.

Chinshanlo's profile on the London 2012 Olympics website states that she was born in Almaty. As for Maneza, the website says she was born in Bishkek, the capital of neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

Zulfia Chinshanlo surrounded by fans of the Kazakhstan team after claiming a gold medal in weightlifting. Screenshot from video "Chinshanlo delights in Olympic gold' uploaded July 30, 2012, by YouTube user SNTVonline.

Zulfia Chinshanlo surrounded by fans of the Kazakhstan team after claiming a gold medal in weightlifting. Screenshot from video “Chinshanlo delights in Olympic gold' uploaded July 30, 2012, by YouTube user SNTVonline.

Chinese state media agency Xinhua was the first to claim [zh] that Kazakhstan had changed the names of the two athletes and misinformed the Olympic Committee about their countries of origin.

According to Xinhua, Chinshanlo was born and raised in Yongzhou, Hunan province, under the Chinese name Zhao Changling. Maneza was also reportedly born in China, although there are less details about her background.

Maiya Maneza, another "imported' athlete who has claimed an Olympic gold for Kazakhstan. Screenshot from video "Maiya Maneza Kazakhstan' uploaded May 18, 2012, by YouTube user Andre Neka.

Maiya Maneza, another “imported' athlete who has claimed an Olympic gold for Kazakhstan. Screenshot from video “Maiya Maneza Kazakhstan' uploaded May 18, 2012, by YouTube user Andre Neka.

Doubts about the weightlifters' origins emerged after it became clear that neither Chinshanlo nor Meneza could freely converse in Kazakh, the official language in Kazakhstan, or Russian, which serves as a lingua franca in the ethnically diverse country.

Matthew Kupfer of Registan.net was one of the first bloggers to investigate the scandal, writing:

I hoped to find a video of Chinshanlo speaking voluble Russian with no accent. Instead, I found that Chinshanlo’s Russian wasn’t that good and she did, indeed, seem to have a Chinese accent. It wasn’t necessarily proof that she had come from China, but it seemed to suggest that, if she truly was from Kazakhstan, she had grown up speaking only Dungan.

Journalist Richard Orange confirmed Kupfer's linguistic assessment. Writing on Eurasianet.org's Inside the Cocoon blog, he noted:

When photographer Ikuru Kuwajima and I visited Kazakhstan's Olympic weightlifting training camp in July 2011, it was difficult to get much out of Zulfiya Chinshanlo, the 19-year-old weightlifter who on July 29 brought Kazakhstan its second gold at the London games. Neither Chinshanlo, nor her friend Maiya Maneza, could manage more than a few fragments of Russian. And they spoke no Kazakh.

The scandal continued to sizzle in mainstream media. The Chinese Daily suggested that Beijing and Astana had struck a deal back in 2007, under which Kazakhstan was allowed to lease Chinshanlo for five years. So, next year, when the lease ends, the athlete would have to return to China. However, according to BBC, both Chinshanlo and Maneza adopted Kazakhstani citizenship shortly after leaving China.

Amid accusations of foul play, Alexei Kryuchkov, a senior Kazakh sports official, has argued that the two athletes were “underestimated” in China before Kazakh coaches found them and trained for the Olympics. Kryuchkov said [ru]:

А что они [китайцы] их [Чиншанло и Менезу] не воспитывали?.. Кто не давал им готовить их? Они же отпустили их спокойно. Без всяких возражений, когда они уходили. А по истечении шести лет, когда они достигли высоких результатов, начинает кого-то жаба есть.

Why didn't [the Chinese] train [Chinshanlo and Meneza]?.. Who did not let them do so? They let [the athletes] go easily. There were no objections when they left. And after six years, when the two have achieved remarkable success, somebody feels envy.

This sentiment is shared by many Kazakh netizens. Commenting under the above article, an anonymous user wrote[ru]:

Что за претензии? Если так сложилось бы что она не выиграла бы золото, китайцы молча сидели бы кушаю свою лапшу.

What kind of complaints are these? If [Chinshanlo] hadn't won gold, the Chinese would have eaten their noodles quietly.

On Twitter, Anuar Dossybi basked [ru] in Kazakhstan's multicultural glory:

Манеза, Чиншанло, Винокуров… Так держать, казахи! Эм… Ну или кто-там…

Maneza, Chinshanlo, Vinokurov [an ethnically Russian athlete who won another gold for Kazakhstan]… Keep it up, Kazakhs! Erm, or whoever you are…

While Aibek Baineshov tweeted [kz] triumphantly:

Бола берсiн, бола берсiн коп мейлi, “Алтын алка” бiзге коптiк етпейдi)!!!

Let it be, let it be, the more medals, the better. There are never enough gold medals)!!!

Voicing a rare criticism of the foreign-born athletes, IamAzamat wrote [ru] ironically on Twitter:

Чиншанло такая казахская фамилия.

Chinshanlo is such a typical Kazakh surname.

Another Kazakh Twitter user, Ardabek, responded [ru]:

Это не казахская фамилия, она не казашка! Она китаянка, ее имени придумали тренеры. Манеза тоже, ее имена озночает как мой майонез

[Chinshanlo] is not a Kazakh surname, she isn't Kazakh! She is Chinese, the coaches made up this name for her. Same with Maneza, whose last name sounds like “mayonnaise”.

Yet, the domestic reaction to Kazakhstan's Olympic medals has mostly been one of pride. Most netizens do not care much about the nationality and previous citizenship of athletes winning medals for Kazakhstan. Moreover, because “importing” Chinese-born athletes has proven so successful, some netizens suggest that the strategy should have been taken up earlier. Kenzhe Adenov wrote [ru] ironically on Twitter:

… После побед Чиншанло и Манезы ..То что Китай на первом месте, не его заслуга, а наша недоработка! )))

…After the victories of Chinshanlo and Maneza, the fact that China has won more gold medals than any other country is not its achievement but an omission on our part! )))

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

This post is part of the GV Central Asia Interns Project at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

August 08 2012

Dominican Republic: Pride and Celebration of Félix Sánchez' Gold

The Dominican Republic is celebrating the gold medal Félix Sánchez, also know as “Super Félix” (@elsupersanchez [es]), won at the 400 hurdles event in the London 2012 Olympic Games. His achivement gives the Caribbean country its second Olympic gold medal. Sanchez had already made history by winning the first Olympic gold for the Dominican Republic in Athens 2004.

Along with Sanchez' gold medal, Dominicans are also exultant for the silver medal won by Luguelín Santos (@LuguelinSantos [es]) in the 400 mts. race. It is the first time that two Domincans win medals in Athletics events at the same Olympic Games, something that has caused great excitment in the country.

Félix Sánchez. Picture posted by Jonasmrcds in Wikimedia Commons and republished under License CC BY-SA 3.0

Sánchez' victory came in a very special moment when the future of his career was uncertain. He suffered an injury in 2004 during a race in the Golden European League that forced him to stay away from competitions for a while. When he came back his performance wasn't as good as before so many start suggesting he should retire. This, along with his age (34), was the reason his gold medal was a surprise for many.

But maybe the key story came just before he competed in the Olympic Games of Beijing 2008, when Sánchez received the terrible news of the death of his beloved grandmother. This affected his performance during those games. In fact, one of the most emotional moments [es] during his triumph last August 6th in London was when he pulled out a picture of his grandmother that he had put close to his chest, and dropped to the ground to kiss it. “Super Félix” also had the word “grandmother” written on his running shoes, and during the award ceremony he sobbed.

Dominican netizens have expressed their feelings for Félix Sánchez through Twitter:

@YMHBONI [es]: @elsupersanchez gracias por darle este honor a Rep. Dom. Eres grande Félix.. Cuanto orgullo para nosotros.

@YMHNONI: @elsupersanchez thank you for giving this honor to the Dom.Rep. You are great Felix… how proud we feel.

@bellozaidy [es]: Hoy fue un dia glorioso, donde el Dominicano donde quiera que este en cualquier rincon del mundo se conecto a través de una lagrima!

@bellozaidi: Today was a glorious day when every Dominican anywhere in the world was connected through a tear!

@Bagui44Nunez [es]: @elsupersanchez Dios te siga bendiciendo,lo que mas me gusta es el reconocimiento a tu abuela,eso te hace un hombre humilde.

@Bagui44Nunez: @elsupersanchez May God keep blessing you, what I liked the most was the tribute to your grandma, that makes you a humble man.

Luguelín Santos @LuguelinSantos [es] also took the opportunity to congratulate Sánchez:

@LuguelinSantos [es]: Felicidades eres @elsupersanchez un verdadero campeon olimpico!

@LuguelinSantos: Congratulations @elsupersanchez you are a true Olympic champion!

The President Elect of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, joined the congratulations on Twitter:

@DaniloMedina [es]: El país está de fiesta. ¡Dos medallas en menos de una hora! Felicidades a Félix Sánchez y a Luguelín Santos por sus hazañas esta tarde

@DaniloMedina: The country is celebrating. Two medals in less than an hour! Congratulations to Féliz Sánchez and Luguelín Santos for their feats of this afternoon

*Thumbnail picture taken from this video.

Seven Cameroon Olympic Athletes Go Missing in London

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

After treating us to some flamboyant national costumes during the opening ceremony, seven Cameroon athletes decided to shock the world by disappearing from the London 2012 Olympic village.

Says Kakodkar said this in a blog post:

It’s a planned disappearance, involving immigration agents for sure. Drusille Ngako was the first to go missing. She is a reserve goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team. Swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue quickly followed suit. Then the boxers eliminated in preliminary rounds disappeared, one by one, from the Olympic Village. The names are given as Thomas Essomba, Christian Donfack Adioufack, Abdon Mewoli, Blaise Yepmou Mendouo and Serge Ambomo”

A Cameroonian fan at the London 2012 Olympics. Image by joncandy (CC BY-SA 2.0).

A Cameroonian fan at the London 2012 Olympics. Image by joncandy (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Blog Welcome to iRelate goes on to say this is common practice of Cameroonian athletes and sports personalities:

What began as rumour has finally turned out to be true. Seven Cameroonian athletes who participated at the 2012 London Olympic Games have disappeared from the Olympic Village,” David Ojong, the mission head said in a message sent to the ministry. …It is not the first time Cameroonian athletes have disappeared during international sports competitions. At past Francophone and Commonwealth games as well as junior soccer competitions, several Cameroonians have quit their delegation without official consent.

CameroonOnline.org gives quite some more details of why Cameroonian athletes seem to disappear at major sporting events:

Their disappearance is not only an embarrassment, but a great surprise to members of the Team Cameroon delegation and Cameroonians based in London having feasted with four of them last Friday at the Royal Garden Hotel, where a reception was organised in honour of the athletes. It should be noted that it is not the first time Cameroonian athletes are disappearing during international sports competition. At the Francophone, Commonwealth Games and junior soccer competitions, several African athletes were lured by scouts to quit their delegations without the consent of their officials for greener pasture. While a handful of them end-up competing for other countries, a greater number of them end up frustrated.

Some comments on Twitter had choice words for the seven athletes:

@Zichivhu: Note to the 7 athletes from #Cameroon who’ve disappeared : life in England is no bed-of-rose. I know,I once lived there

@iBezeng: #Cameroon Minister of Sports and Physical Education, needs to be hold [held] accountable for the 7 missing athletes

@nfor_edwin: What will the world think of #Cameroon when #athletes start fleeing from #London2012 #OlympicVillage? That tells how well they feel at home

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Iran: Celebrating ‘Historic' Medals and Criticising the Referee

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Iranians are celebrating their most memorable day in the history of the Olympics. Athletes from Iran won two gold and two silver medals on Tuesday, 7 August, 2012.

Ghasem Rezaei added the third Olympic wrestling gold to Iran's haul in London, in the -96kg Greco-Roman final, making the Iranian team the best team in Greco-Roman category for the first time ever.

Ehsan Hadadi, an Iranian discus thrower got a silver medal. It is the first Iranian medal in Olympic Games history outside wrestling, weightlifting, and taekwondo. In the weightlifting category, Iran won a gold and a silver medal, adding to the joy of Iranians with a total of four golds and eight medals.

But one issue ruined the party: thousands of Iranians called Saeid Morad Abdvali's defeat in a wrestling match as a conspiracy of the Olympics referee against Iran's World Champion.

A Facebook page to support Abdalvali was launched and received more than 27,000 likes in less than 24 hours.

In this page all Iranians are invited to join in order to lighten Abdavali's sorrow. A video of the match was published too.

Persiss writes:

Abdvali became the victim of injustice…he with a lot of financial difficulty did his best to create honour for Iran..Wipe off the tears, you are the champion.

Irane Man (My Iran) says:

Abdavali was a simple fruit seller who sacrificed a lot in four years for the Olympic Games…people only applaud the ones who won gold medals…We should not leave this champion alone and support him.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection
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