KABUL: Afghanistan's first medallist in the London Olympics received a personal phone call of congratulation from the war-torn country's president Friday.
Rohullah Nikpah took a taekwondo bronze medal, repeating his performance in the 2008 Beijing Games when he became the nation's first-ever Olympic medal winner.
President Hamid Karzai called Afghanistan's team in London Friday to congratulate Nikpah and all the Afghan athletes, his office said.
“Afghan athletes have shown in recent years that they don't have less talent than the athletes of other countries and with hard work and effort they can hoist the flag of Afghanistan in the international sports arena,” Karzai's office said.
Nikpah's victory was greeted with jubilation in a country ravaged by war for three decades, setting social media sites alight with pride.
Another Afghan Taekwondo hope, Nesar Ahmad Bahawi, began his quest for a medal Friday with a victory in his first bout.
Thanks to Nikpah and Bahawi, taekwondo has become one of the most popular sports in Afghanistan.
Around 25,000 competitors practise in hundreds of clubs around the country, and events with the Afghan fighters in London were shown live on several TV channels.
Before the 2008 Games, the country's previous best Olympic finish was a fifth place in wrestling in 1964.
NATO has some 130,000 troops in Afghanistan helping Karzai's government fight a Taliban insurgency.