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Olympics: First gold for Serbia, history for Gabon

Milica Mandic won Serbia's debut gold of the London Games on Saturday as Anthony Obame made history with Gabon's first ever Olympic medal in the women's and men's heavyweight taekwondo.

india Updated: Aug 12, 2012 14:45 IST
Milica Mandic,Serbia's debut gold,London olympics

Milica Mandic won Serbia's debut gold of the London Games on Saturday as Anthony Obame made history with Gabon's first ever Olympic medal in the women's and men's heavyweight taekwondo.

Obame lost to Carlo Molfetta of Italy on a judges decision in the men's final, but he was still able to celebrate a huge achievement for his west African country – recognised by a phone call from his President Ali Bongo.

"I think it's a good start for us. We have to try to get more medals in the future," said the silver-medallist, who missed out on gold by a matter of seconds.

"For now it's just me, but I hope that other people from Gabon will win medals at other Olympic Games and have the same success as me," he added.

"I tried to go for the gold, but he was more experienced than me. He is the 2010 European champion. I hope to come back in the future and do better."

Obame led the final 9-6 with less than 30 seconds left, but Molfetta caught him with a three-point head-kick to level the scores.

The Italian was the more aggressive in the sudden death period of golden point and although neither fighter scored, he did enough to take the judges decision.

It was heart-breaking for Obame, who was nonetheless acclaimed as a hero by the packed stands and his lap of honour was afforded the biggest cheer. Before he even collected his medal, he was phoned by President Bongo.

"I spoke with the president of the Republic and my dad on the phone but not yet my friends because I'm still here," he said. "I can't wait to go back (to Gabon) to see my dad because my mum is already here.

"I want to see my friends and everyone who supports me and then we'll see how to celebrate this medal."

It was a day for firsts as women's champion Mandic also won Serbia's first gold of the Games, on the penultimate day, which was also her country's first ever Olympic taekwondo medal.

Runner-up Anne-Caroline Graffe was the first French Polynesian to represent France at the Olympics.

And Dada Modibo Keita, a two-time world champion, came close to winning a first Olympic medal for Mali but after losing to Molfetta in the semi-final, he pulled out of the bronze medal fight with a cruciate ligament injury.

Robelis Despaigne of Cuba benefited from that and was joined on the podium by China's Liu Xiaobo, who beat three-time world champion Bahri Tanrikulu of Turkey for the second bronze.

Mandic, 20, had previously won bronze at the world championships and silver at the European championships, but this time she took the gold.

The final was a tight affair but she nicked it 9-7 due to some precise scoring against a charging Graffe.

"I can't describe how I feel right now. This is something that I wanted so much and I've worked really hard for it," said Mandic.

"It's amazing, it's the highlight of my life. I just can't believe it and I'm so proud I did it for my country."

Graffe was equally proud having been a late replacement at the Olympics.

Although she is world over-73kg champion, she had been overlooked in favour of world under-73kg champion Gwladys Epangue for the Games.

But when Epangue was injured, Graffe was given her chance to make history for her Pacific island.

"I'm proud of my silver medal, although I was expecting to get gold," she said. "This means a lot to me because I'm the first Polynesian to represent France at the Olympics and it's a good way to finish off my Olympics."

Beijing champion Maria Espinoza of Mexico and Russian Anastasia Baryshnikova won the bronze medals.

First Published: Aug 12, 2012 11:06 IST