Here in the United States we often don’t even remember Olympians unless they come home with several medallions hanging around their necks.
But for nations that don’t have 300 million people and don’t have elite coaches and training facilities from sea to shining sea, Olympic medals are harder to come by.
Prior to the London Games, 81 of the 204 countries with national Olympic committees recognized by the International Olympic Committee had not won a single Olympic medal of any kind. Over the past few days that number has fallen to 78.
So let’s congratulate these three nations that just won their first ever Olympic medal:
Erick Barrondo, silver medal in the men’s 20 km race walk
Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, first sent athletes to the Olympics in 1952 and has had a team at every Summer Olympiad since 1968. This year Guatemala sent 19 athletes in 11 sports.
Barrondo, who finished the 20 km walk in 1:18:57 on Saturday, won the gold medal in the 20 km race walk at the 2011 Pan American Games.
Kirani James, gold medal in the men’s 400 meters
Grenada, the “Island of Spice”—a Caribbean nation whose population is less than that of Evansville, Indiana or Peoria, Illinois—first sent a delegation to the Olympics in 1984, and the Grenadines have sent a team to every Summer Olympics since.
James, a University of Alabama student who won gold in the 400 on Monday, also won the 400 at last year’s World Championships.
Pavlos Kontides, silver medal in men’s Laser class (sailing)
Cyprus, a divided nation of just over 1 million in the Mediterranean Sea, made its Olympics debut in 1980 and has gone to every summer games since. This year the Cypriots sent 13 athletes in 7 sports.
Kontides won silver in the men’s Laser class on Monday in his second Olympic appearance.