Mongolia made its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 1964. The country sent a total of twenty-one athletes representing four sporting categories. That first outing served as a very good learning experience for the Mongolian athletes because in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, they won a total of four Olympic medals. Until Beijing 2008, Mongolia had no gold medals in its Olympic history; the first-ever gold medal was won by judoka N.Tuvshinbayar in the men’s 100 kg category.
On 14 August, 2008, N.Tuvshinbayar surprisingly defeated Keiji Suzuki of Japan, who had been the champion of Athens 2004 – by ‘ippon’ in his first match following a win over wrestlers from Germany, South Korean and Azerbaijan. That’s how N.Tuvshinbayar brought Mongolia’s first ever Olympic gold medal home to the great joy as well as unity to the nation. The Olympic victory touched off celebrations by thousands in the central square of Ulaanbaatar. In addition to N.Tuvshinbayar, the following Mongolian athletes also won medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing: E.Badar-Uugan (boxing, 57 kg), gold medal; O.Gundegmaa, (25-meter sport pistol) and P.Serdamba (boxing, 48 kg) silver medals. And Mongolian athlete D.Baatarjav won a gold medal at the 2008 Paralympic Games.
The 2008 Olympic triumph was a landmark in the modern history of Mongolia: Fireworks boomed, car horns blared and people celebrated by downing vodka. Mongolia has won medals in wrestling, boxing, shooting and judo in previous games, but never a gold. The victory was timely in re-uniting the nation following the most difficult events in a generation: only a month before, Ulaanbaatar had seen a bloody riot sparked by allegations of fraud surrounding the 2008 legislative election. While initially a peaceful protest, the riot resulted in Mongolia’s first state of emergency which lasted four days, and a military presence (lasting two of those days) was brought into the city to quell the riot. Five people were killed by the police, and the headquarters of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (who had won the election), which was located next to the Ulaanbaatar Hotel, was set on fire. The nation was stunned and shaken by the heavy handed response of the government; the Olympic victory could not have come at a better time!
Wrestling is an integral part of the Mongolian culture which is why it comes as no surprise that their first Olympic medals came from this sport. Wrestler J.Munkhbat became Mongolia’s first ever Olympic silver medalist at the 1968 Summer Olympics.
With the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo beginning in less than a year, we wish all Mongolia’s Olympic competitors good luck!