Fighting pride – Mongolia in the Olympics
THE sovereign state of Mongolia, historically Outer Mongolia, is bordered by the might of both China and Russia but surprisingly, it is holding its own in the Olympic and World championship boxing rings – especially for a country of a little over 3 million people. In fact it is the most sparsely populated sovereign state in the world; its peoples’ largely of nomadic origin. The country’s old Communist party ruled for many years, but in the early 1990s the democratisation movement came to the fore and remains the major political force in the country today. Mongolians are tough, resilient and very proud people and their disciplined and varied life-style have helped them succeed, mainly in recent times on the international amateur boxing stage. More of this however a little later on.
Amateur boxing emerged there in 1948 and in 1960 the Mongolian Olympic boxing team was formed. Mongolia first entered the summer Olympics in 1964 and has been an ever present since, apart from 1984, when it joined the old Soviet led boycott of the Games. Their first foray into the Olympic ring came in 1972 in Munich.
Seven Olympic boxing medals have been acquired – one gold, two silver and four bronze; while ten medals have been bagged at the AIBA Men’s World championships – one gold, four silver and five bronze. Quite an impressive haul for a very small country (population wise, and one which is spread over a huge land mass).
Turning first to the Olympics, their initial two entrants in 1972 didn’t last long. Light-flyweight, Vandui Batbayar lost in his opening bout; while light-middleweight, Namlhal Tsendaiush had first a bye then lost in his first actual bout. Results took some time to improve, but they eventually did just that.
Their initial medal came in the Olympic boxing ring in 1988, although they had first entered the summer Games at large in 1964, when the then Soviet style Communist type of regime prevailed in Mongolia. However, a medal in the men’s World championships had come six years earlier in 1982 and we will return to that in due course.
In 1988 a bronze went to lightweight Nerguin Enkhbat and four years later in 1992 another bronze was won by the fists of another lightweight Namjilyn Bayarsaikhan. Some fallow years then followed until 2008 when Mongolia’s initial (and so far only) gold medal was secured by bantamweight, Enkhbatyn Badar-Uugan who outpointed Cuba’s Yankiel Leon in the final. On his way to gold, the Mongolian had also outscored Ireland’s John Joe Nevin. The Mongolian also added the coveted Val Barker trophy to his gold medal triumph. Also at these Games, a silver went to light-flyweight Purevdorjiin Serdamba who sustained an early shoulder injury in his final against China’s outstanding Zou Shiming who thus secured a technical victory.
In London in 2012 another silver went to flyweight Nyambayaryn Togstogt who lost out on points to the Cuban Robeisy Ramirez in a close and tough final, while light-welterweight Uranchimegin Monkh-Erdene weighed in with a bronze having narrowly eclipsed on points Team GB’s Thomas Stalker along the way.
In Rio in 2016, lightweight, Dorjnyambuugiin Otgondalaai [pictured] picked up a bronze losing out to eventual French silver medallist, Sofian Oumiha.
So Mongolia have been building up a useful Olympic medal pedigree of late, especially with a very small population on the global stage, and they aim to continue this trend in Tokyo in 2020.
Turning out attention now to the AIBA World amateur championships, Mongolia has a good story to tell here as well as we shall see:
1982 saw featherweight, Rawsalyn Otgonbayar claim a silver medal losing in the final to the legendary Cuban maestro, Adolfo Horta. Fast forward to 1993 when light-flyweight Erdenetsogtyn Tsogtjargal won a bronze medal, while four years later in 1997, silver was struck once more when lightweight, Tumentsetseg Uitumen lost on points to the Russian gold medallist, Alexander Maletin.
2007 saw another silver medal go to Mongolia, this time bantamweight, Enkhbatyn Badar-Ugan lost a narrow points decision in the final against Russia’s Sergey Vodopyanov. The Mongolian having beaten England’s Joe Murray in their semi-final bout.
But two years later in 2009, Mongolia received a full set of medals from these championships. Gold went to light-flyweight Purevdorj Serdamba who bested Russian David Aayrapetyan in their final encounter. Silver was won by flyweight Tugstsogt Nyambayar who lost in his final to the classy Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo. Bronze was captured by Uranchimegin Monkh-Erdene who lost to the eventual gold medallist from Cuba Roniel Iglesias.
In 2011 light-flyweight, Purevdorjiin Serdamba failed to retain his world crown, but he did win bronze medal losing to the eventual silver medallist from South Korea, Shin Jong–Hun. In 2013, Uranchimegin Monkh- Erdene gained another bronze medal losing to the eventual silver medallist from Cuba, Yasniel Toledo
Last year in 2017, saw a clash of old Olympic lightweight foes: Frenchman, Sofian Oumiha and Mongolia’s Dornyambuugiin Otgondalai with the Frenchman eventually taking gold, having defeated his Mongolian counterpart in their semi-final clash.
Mongolian men have also boxed with distinction in the Asian Confederation Championships and World Military Games, AIBA World Junior and Youth Championships as well as at regular international tournaments at home and abroad. Their women have had success in the past at Asian Confederation Championships, especially in the women’s case in 2012, when their first two gold medals were clinched. Success has also been chalked up at AIBA Women’s World Junior and Youth World Championships. Mongolian women boxers did not feature in the London and Rio Olympic Games; but have been entered in the AIBA World Women’s Championships , without medal success so far. All in all, a fine catalogue of continuing success for such a distant nation and one it can be immensely proud of.
So this is the Mongolian medal story in the Olympics and the Worlds and also at home and abroad too, very commendable indeed so far and with every indication that there is much more to come from this remote land of fighting me and women.
Please do spare a thought for this writer with advance apologies if necessary in the light of such intriguing Mongolian names, hope I have not done too much of a disservice to their splendid fighting contestants.