Bulgaria opens Olympic medals count, all eyes on volleyball
After almost two weeks of disappointing results by Bulgarian athletes in the London Olympics, the country won its first medal, although not the gold it was hoping for.
Late on August 9, wrestler Stanka Hristova was defeated in the 72kg freestyle category to take silver. Bulgaria’s five-time world champion doubled her silver from the Beijing Games, losing to Natalia Vorobieva, the rising star in Russia’s wrestling team.
After the final, a distraught and teary-eyed Hristova – the country’s best hope of nabbing a gold medal in London – was very critical of her own performance, saying that she made a mistake and did not show her best in the final match.
Bulgaria is set to get its worst tally from a summer Olympics since 1952, when the country won one bronze medal (not counting the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, which Bulgaria boycotted along with the other members of the communist bloc in retaliation to the Western countries’ boycott of the Moscow Olympics four years earlier).
Boxer Tervel Poulev was also guaranteed a medal, having reached the semi-finals in the heavy category, scheduled for later on August 10, but the attention of Bulgarian sports fans has been glued to the men’s volleyball team, which has exceeded expectations in qualifying for the semi-finals of the Olympic tournament.
Torn by high-profile public rows that led to the resignation of head coach Radostin Stoichev and the team’s best player Matei Kaziyski less than two months before the Olympics (as reported in detail here), Bulgaria’s young team has been the revelation of the volleyball tournament at the Olympics, defeating highly-fancied Poland and Italy in the group stage, which it topped to draw an easy opponent – Germany – in the quarterfinal.
On August 10, Bulgaria will meet its perennial nightmare, Russia, for a place in the final against either Brazil or Italy.
(Matei Kaziyski photo by Bulgarian Volleyball Federation)