Afghanistan's Rohullah Nikpai won his country's first medal at an Olympics upsetting world flyweight champion Juan Antonio Ramos of Spain to take bronze in the men's 58-kg taekwondo category.
|Rohullan Nikpai celebrates his country's first Olympic medal [AFP]
Mexico's Guillermo Perez triumphed over Yulis Gabriel Mercedes of the Dominican Republic in a dramatic final to win gold in Beijing.
Many Afghans were not immediately aware of Nikpai's win because power is intermittent and only some households have access to cable television in the strife-plagued country.
But a live broadcast of the bout was relayed by a private television station and dozens of people who managed to watch phoned in after Nikpai's victory.
"It's a time of big celebrations for all of us. I'm so happy that despite the war, lack of sports facilities and training Nikpai managed to secure a medal," shopkeeper Khair Mohammad said.
Afghanistan was suspended from the Olympic movement in 1999 because the-then ruling Taliban was not internationally recognised and did not allow the participation of female athletes.
The country missed Sydney 2000 but was allowed to compete in Athens 2004 when it did send female athletes.
In his bronze medal bout, Nikpai stayed cool and grew in confidence, playing off a supportive crowd and burying the Spaniard in the third round.
He fell to his knees after the referee called time and wept after embracing his coaches.
Nikpai is sure of a hero's welcome when he returns home.
The head of a local welfare organisation had already promised rewards for Afghan medal winners, with $10,000 for a bronze.
Afghanistan's previous best finish was a fifth place in wrestling at the Tokyo Games in 1964.
"I did not watch the game, but heard about it," said Taj Mohammad Ahmazada, head of archives at Afghan National Radio.
"It is indeed a big honour and a matter of great happiness for all of Afghanistan for this is the first time an Afghan athlete has managed to win a medal."
Gold for Mexico
With neither fighter able to score in extra time in the gold medal fight, referees awarded the match to Perez for attacking the most after a breathtaking exchange of aerial kicking skills.
Exhausted, both taekwondo-jins unleashed a series of desperate lunges to land the killer blow, but the deadlock remained at the end of three minutes of extra time.
Referees handed the match to Perez who screamed at the heavens before embracing Mercedes.
Athens champion Chu Mu-Yen of Taiwan recovered from his shock quarter-final loss to Mercedes to beat Chutchawal Khawlaor of Thailand 4-1 in the other bronze decider