Olympic success and hopes of Belarus
Belarusian athletes are traditionally strong at the Olympic Games. Before the Olympic Games of 1994 in Lillehammer they participated as part of the national team of USSR (at the Olympic Games of 1992 – in the united team of CIS).
Wrestler Oleg Karavayev who won the gold medal at the Olympic Games of 1960 in Rome is considered to be the first Belarusian Olympic champion.
After the Republic of Belarus became independent, the National Olympic Committee (NOC) was established in the country in 1991. On March 9, 1992 it was acknowledged as the temporary member of the International Olympic Committee, on September 21, 1993 – it was acknowledged officially. The President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko is the President of the National Olympic Committee.
When participating in the Olympic Games of 1994 in Lillehammer for the first time as a separate team, the Belarusian team won 2 silver medals — they belong to biathlete Svetlana Paramygina and skater Igor Zheleznovsky.
In general, the Belarusian team participated in 10 Olympic Games (5 summer and 5 winter) and won a total of 88 Olympic medals (79 – at the summer Olympic Games, 9 – at the winter Olympic Games), including 13 gold (12 – at the summer Olympic Games, 1 – at the winter Olympic Games).
Belarusian athletes achieved most of all success at the Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing by winning 19 medals (4 gold, 5 silver and 10 bronze medals) and placed 16th in the medal standings. At the Olympic Games of 2012 in London the Belarusian team won 12 medals — 2 gold, 5 silver and 5 bronze medals.
The most famous Belarusian Olympians of contemporary history are Ekaterina Karsten (rowing), gymnast Vitaly Scherbo and runner Yuliya Nesterenko.
Ekaterina Karsten has been the participant of 6 Olympics since the Olympic Games of 1992 in Barcelona. She is the first and only two-time Olympic champion in the history of independent Belarus. At her first Olympic Games, she became the bronze prize-winner as part of the quadruple sculls. Then there were two gold medals in singles (at the Olympic Games of 1996 in Atlanta and the Olympic Games of 2000 in Sydney), the silver medal at the Olympic Games of 2004 in Athens and a bronze medal — at the Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing. The Olympic Games in London were the first in which Ekaterina Karsten didn’t win a medal, placing 5th.
Vitaly Scherbo is a unique gymnast, who won 6 gold medals by winning all types of programs at the Olympic Games in Barcelona as part of the united CIS team. At the Olympic Games of 1996, when participating in the national team of Belarus, Vitaly rose to the third step of the pedestal four times.
Sprinter Yuliya Nesterenko became the main sensation of the Olympic Games of 2004 in Athens, by winning the 100-meters race. After this victory, she was given the nickname “White Lightning”.
In team sports Belarus is represented at the Olympic Games by 3 teams. The national hockey team of Belarus participated in the Olympic Games three times — Nagano-1998, Salt Lake City-2002 and Vancouver-2010. Belarusians have achieved the highest success during the Olympic Games of 2002 by reaching the semifinal of the hockey tournament.
In the quarterfinals the Belarusians beat one of the favorites of the competition – the national team of Sweden, 4:3. That game was called the “Miracle on Ice 2” and was included in the anniversary IIHF rating “100 top international hockey events of the century (1908-2008)” under number 28.
The women’s national basketball team of Belarus participated in the Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing. The team reached the quarterfinal, where it lost to the team of China. And the Olympic football team of Belarus participated in the Olympic Games of 2012. Belarus became the first country of the post-Soviet space, whose team participated in the Olympic football tournament. The team headed by Georgy Kondratiev placed 3rd in the group after beating New Zealand and losing to Brazil and Egypt.