Mongolia’s first Olympic champion At Beijing 2008, judoka Naidan Tüvshinbayar earned Mongolia its first ever Olympic gold, and showed incredible bravery in his bid to defend his title four years later.
Dazzling debut in Beijing On 14 August 2008, Mongolian judoka, Naidangiin Tüvshinbayar announced his arrival on the tatami at Beijing’s University of Science and Technology in the boldest possible fashion. This was Olympic debut, but in his very first bout in the half-heavyweight (-100kg) category he floored the reigning Olympic champion and hot favourite Keiji Suzuki (JPN), with an ippon after just one minute and 26 seconds. It was a similar story in each of his subsequent bouts until the semi-final, where he was made to work hard against Azerbaijan’s Mövlud Miraliyev, finally prevailing by a yuko in the sudden death golden score round. In the final against Kazakhstan’s Ashkat Zhitkeyev, a superbly executed hip throw gave him a waza-ari and the gold medal. It meant that Mongolia, which had won 15 medals since its Olympic debut in 1964, had finally won a gold; and they would claim a second several days later through welterweight boxer Enkhbatyn Badar-Uugan.
A hero’s welcome On returning home from the Chinese capital after the Games, Tüvshinbayar, who hails from Saikhan in the north of Mongolia, found himself accorded star status. Aged just 24, he was honoured by the Mongolian government with the ‘National Athlete’ and ‘Hero of Labour’ awards. "I attribute this historic success to my coach and parents who have given me a lot of support,” he said. "Everyone in Mongolia is celebrating my gold medal.”
Agony in London On 2 August 2012, at the ExCel Arena in London, the Mongolian judoka demonstrated incredible courage as he attempted to defend his Olympic half-heavyweight title. In the semi-final against the Republic of Korea’s Hwang-Hee-Tae, he suffered a serious injury to his left knee (a torn anterior cruciate ligament). The pain was excruciating, and his chances of making the final appeared negligible. However he somehow managed to make it onto the tatami to take on Russia’s Tagir Khaibulaev for the gold medal. A clearly weakened Tuvshinbayar went down by ippon after just two minutes, and was then flown back to Mongolia in a wheelchair. His silver in London makes him the only Mongolian to win two Olympic medals.