When countries win their first ever Olympic medal

Flagbearer Kirani James (C) leads his delegation during the opening ceremony on July 27 (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/GettyImages)

It’s been a historic few days at the games for Guatemala, Grenada and Cyprus, with each country winning its first Olympic medal, reports Darren Wee.

Erick Barrondo of Guatemala won silver in the 20km walk on Saturday, teenager Kirani James of Grenada won gold in the 400m dash on Monday and sailor Pavlos Kontides of Cyprus won silver in the laser class on the same day.

The three athletes became national heroes overnight. Thousands of revellers took to the streets for an impromptu carnival in James’ hometown of Gouyave, while Barrondo took the opportunity to call for “the kids at home to put down guns and knives and pick up a pair of trainers instead”.

According to FT data, of the total number of countries taking part in the 2012 games, 74 have never won a single medal.

Many are small island nations, but there are a few surprises. Bangladesh is home to 161m people but has yet to win a single medal in the seven games it has competed in. Neither have the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cambodia or Nepal. (As Martin Stabe of the FT’s data blog has pointed out, socioeconomic factors have been shown to have a strong relationship to nations’ Olympic success).

Afghanistan, Mauritius, Sudan, Tajikistan and Togo ended their medal droughts in Beijing and several more countries are hoping to do the same in London.

Jordan is pinning its hopes on Taekwondo athlete Mohammad Abulibdeh, ranked third in the world in the -68kg class. Taekwondo is also a golden opportunity for Mali. Daba Modibo Keïta is a double world champion in the +80kg class and stands 6’8” tall.

But Angola’s best chance of a first medal, heavyweight boxer Tumba Silva, lost his shot at glory when he failed to turn up for a weigh-in last week. His coach, British former middle and super middleweight world champion Chris Eubank, was not best pleased.