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Hammering into hearts: How Dilshod Nazarov's Rio victory lifted the Tajiks

Updated Tuesday, 23rd August 2016

Tajikistan won its first independent Gold during Rio 2016. For a nation without a lot to celebrate, it's a big deal.

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Presidential Palace (Palace of Nations).- Rudaki Ave, Dushanbe, Tajikistan Creative commons image Icon Rjruiziii under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license The world's tallest flag pole flies the Tajik flag over the capital, Dushanbe

Dilshod Nazarov — remember the name. People in Tajikistan will not be forgetting it in a hurry.

Nazarov sealed the country's first ever gold medal in the hammer throw in Rio 2016 on August 19 by catapulting the metal ball some 78.68 metres to claim victory over more fancied opponents.

The Facebook user Javononi Shahri Vahdat summed up the elation that has swept the Central Asian country ever since, writing:

Long live Tajik mothers who give birth to sons like Dilshod Nazarov. Well done, mother of Dilshod.

Tajikistan, the most remittance-dependent country in the world, has had a torrid few years after an economic crisis in Russia, where over a million citizens live and work, rattled the national economy to its core.

The country has enjoyed few sporting achievements during a 25-year independence that began with a bloody civil war and has continued on through poverty, corruption and authoritarianism.

No surprise, then, that Nazarov is being placed on a pedestal with the same pride he exhibited when he topped the podium on a sweltering Friday evening in Rio.

One Facebook user proposed to greet Nazarov at the airport in a post liked around 200 times:

Bursting with emotion. This man is simply the pride of the nation! This is Dilshod Nazarov, Champion at the Olympics in Rio 2016! Thank you for the victory, our golden man! Hurrah!!! Dear members of this group, I have a proposal for you. Let us meet our hero at the airport with full honours!  Who would like to join us?

Dilshoda Nigmonova joked:

How should we celebrate this event? Will there be national pilaf for people organized by the government of Tajikistan?

But all of this paled in comparison to a proposal on to make Nazarov a national hero of Tajikistan, an honour usually reserved for dead poets and the country's long-serving autocrat President Emomali Rakhmon.

The athlete himself was a picture of patriotism in the aftermath of his unexpected win, wrapped in a Tajik flag and wearing a t-shirt bearing the image of his late father, who was killed in the civil war fighting for pro-government forces.

The text on the t-shirt read: “This throw is for you”.

Writing from Rio on his Facebook, Nazarov returned the love of his homeland in a post dripping with emotion:

Dear friends, compatriots and everyone that supported me. Thanks to your support we have this victory. Going out into that Olympic stadium I felt the powerful energy of millions of supporters. I dedicate this victory to the people of Tajikistan. This is our shared victory. Thank you so much.

Footnote: Tajik social media users with longer memories and/or an eye for detail have pointed out that Nazarov is not the first Tajik Olympic champion. That honour belongs to another hammer thrower, Andrei Abduvaliyev. But Abduvaliyev won his gold in Barcelona in 1992 representing the Unified Team consisting of former Soviet states. Nazarov's is therefore the only gold medal that officially counts in the republic's totals.

This article was originally published by Global Voices under a CC-BY licence





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