The 21 Countries With One Olympic Medal

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Earlier today, we quizzed you on the countries that have won more than 100 Olympic medals. Now it's time for the other side of the equation. Twenty-one countries have won just one medal. Here are the stories of the national heroes who brought those medals home.

Afghanistan

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Despite making appearances at 12 Olympic Games since 1936, Afghanistan has secured just one medal -- a bronze in Taekwondo at the 2008 Games. Rohullah Nikpai, who won the medal, was given a house by president Hamid Karzai and told reporters that he hoped the medal would "send a message of peace to my country after 30 years of war." The country has had a checkered Olympics history -- in 1996, one of their two athletes was disqualified for arriving late to a weigh-in and the other, a marathon runner, finished last after injuring his hamstring before the race. And in 1999, the country was ruled ineligible for competition because of discrimination against women.

Barbados

By finishing third in the men's 100 meters at the 2000 Summer Games, Obadele Thompson won the sole medal for Barbados. The country technically had won a second medal -- a bronze in the 4x400 relay team in 1960 -- but Barbadian runner James Wedderburn was actually competing under the West Indies Federation flag. Barbados is hoping that hurdler Ryan Brathwaite, who won the 2009 world championships, can bring the country another medal this summer. And Thompson seems to be doing well for himself -- he married American track star Marion Jones in 2006.

Bermuda

Clarence Hill holds Bermuda's sole medal for taking home the bronze in heavyweight boxing at the 1976 Games in Montreal. The country is also the smallest by population to have won an Olympic medal.

Burundi

In the country's first ever Olympics appearance at the 1996 Atlanta Games, distance runner Venuste Niyongabo won the country's first and only medal by finishing with the gold in the men's 5,000 meters. Niyongabo was actually competing in that event for just the third time ever and was supposed to go to the Olympics for the 1,500 meter race. He ended up forfeiting his spot in the shorter race to allow fellow Burundian runner Dieudonne Kwizera to compete.

Djibouti

Hussein Ahmed Salah took home the bronze for the men's marathon in the 1988 Seoul Games. He remains Djibouti's only Olympic medalist.

Eritrea

The African nation only made its Olympics debut in 2000, but had to wait until 2004 to get its first medal when Zersenay Tadese took the bronze in the men's 10,000 meters. Tadese will compete again this year, so it's possible Eritrea will double its medal count. This year's delegation also includes the country's first athlete outside of track and field: a cyclist named Daniel Teklehaymanot.

Guyana

Boxer Michael Anthony’s bronze at the 1980 Games remains Guyana’s only medal in 15 total appearances. This summer the country is sending six athletes, including star runner Aliann Pompey.

Iraq

After Iraq's Olympics debut in 1948, they sat out the next two games, including a boycott of the 1956 Games over Operation Musketeer. But Iraq roared back in 1960 when Iraqi weightlifter Abdul Wahid Aziz took home a bronze medal. Since then, Iraq has made scattered appearances in the Olympics but has yet to win another medal.

Ivory Coast

The country's lone medal was a silver won by Gabriel Tiacoh in the men's 400 meters at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Kuwait

Technically, Kuwait's first medal came in 1992, but the bronze was for taekwondo, which at that time was just a demonstration sport. But eight years later, shooter Fehaid Al Deehani took a bronze in double trap shooting. Kuwait almost didn't have a chance to add to their medal count this year, thanks to a 2010 IOC ruling that the country's athletes would have to compete under the Olympic flag -- not the Kuwaiti one -- because of political interference. The suspension ended earlier this month after the government pledged to stay out of the Olympic committee.

Republic of Macedonia

The nation that competes as the Republic of Macedonia has won just one medal -- Magomed Ibragimov's bronze in wrestling in 2000. But until 1988, athletes from Macedonia competed for Yugoslavia, taking in 12 medals, including two golds.

Mauritius

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When Bruno Julie took a bronze medal in Bantamweight boxing in 2008, Mauritius ended a 24-year medal drought. Nicknamed the "Mauritian Magician” or the “Creol Crusher,” Julie was approached by other countries in the hopes that he would switch nationalities, but he has stayed loyal to Mauritius.

Netherlands Antilles

To date, the only medal from the Caribbean island nation was a silver in sailing won by Jan Boersma at the 1988 Olympics. But the country actually had a second silver for about an hour in 2008, when Churandy Martina placed second (behind Usain Bolt) in the Men's 200-meter. After the race, the third-place finisher, American Wallace Spearmon, was disqualified for stepping outside his lane. The U.S. coaches reviewed tape of the race and discovered that Martina had also moved out of his lane and said they would drop an appeal of Spearmon's disqualification if organizers stripped Martina's finish as well. The Netherlands Antilles team was furious -- sports minister Omayra Leeflang said at the time the move was "against the spirit of the Olympic" and many citizens viewed it as bullying by the U.S. Now that the Netherlands Antilles has been dissolved, athletes from those countries will compete as independent athletes.

Niger

Light welterweight boxer Isaaka Daborg won Niger's only medal with a bronze in 1972. Now the country is hoping to take home another boxing medal -- their sole competitor this summer, Moustapha Hima, is competing as a welterweight.

Paraguay

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Although the country’s only medal came in 2004, when the men’s soccer team won the silver, Paraguay still made quite an impact on the 2008 Games. Paraguayan javelin thrower Leryn Franco was instantly noticed for her beauty (she was a former swimsuit model, after all) and became one of the most-searched athletes on the internet despite placing 51st in her event. Franco will be back this year.

Senegal

Since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Senegal has attended every Summer Games and even four Winter Olympics. But the only medal came in 1988, when Amadou Dia Ba won a silver in the men's 400 meter hurdles.

Sudan

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After 48 years of attending games, Sudan finally broke through in 2008, when Ismail Ahmed Ismail took the silver medal in the men’s 800 meter race. The medal, which came amid decades of conflict in the country, was widely hailed for shedding a positive light on the country. South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan last year, is not sending a delegation to the London Games.

Togo

When Benjamin Boukpeti nabbed a bronze medal in 2008 for the K1 slalom kayak event, he made a surprising promise: he said he'd actually go visit Togo. Despite being the country's only medalist, Boukpeti had actually only been to Togo once. He has dual citizenship in France (his mother is French), but decided to compete for Togo in 2008 when it became clear he might not make the French team.

Tonga

Tonga won its first – and so far only – medal at the 1996 Atlanta games when Paea Wolfgramm placed second in super heavyweight boxing. The country tried to compete in its first Winter Olympics in 2010, but luger Fuahea Semi failed to qualify. Semi later became the center of a scandal when he changed his name to Bruno Banani in a marketing deal with a German underwear company of the same name.

United Arab Emirates

After competing in seven Olympics, the UAE finally won its first medal in 2004 with a silver gold in men’s double trap, a shooting competition. The medalist, Ahmed Al-Maktoum, is also a member of the Dubai ruling party and had previously won several domestic squash competitions.

Virgin Islands

Over 10 Summer Games and six Winter Olympics, the Virgin Islands have amassed one single medal: a silver in men’s finn class sailing at the 1988 Seoul Games won by Peter Holmberg. Holmberg would also go on to win the America’s Cup in 2007 and now consults on sailing events.

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July 26, 2012 - 5:43pm
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