Israeli Town Rejoices as 'Local Boy' Claims Jordan's First Ever Olympic Medal

Ahmad Abughaush, a 20-year old student from Amman, beats Russian Alexey Denisenko to win Taekwondo title in the men's 68 kilogram category. Though born in Jordan, his family's roots lie in the Jerusalem-area village of Abu Gosh.

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Ahmad Abughaush of Jordan poses with his medal on the podium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 18, 2016.
Ahmad Abughaush of Jordan poses with his medal on the podium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 18, 2016.Credit: Issei Kato, Reuters

Ahmad Abughaush, a 20-year-old student from Amman, claimed Jordan's first ever Olympic medal when he beat Russian Alexey Denisenko to win Taekwondo gold in the men's 68 kilogram category on Thursday.

His win was celebrated not only in the Hashemite Kingdom, but also in the Israeli Arab town of Abu Gosh, near Jerusalem, from which the athlete's family hails. 

"It's a great honor for Abu Gosh," a village resident told the Israeli website Ynet, explaining that the gold-medalist's grandparents relocated from Abu Gosh decades ago to Jordan. Abughaush still has family in the village, and they are reportedly closely in touch with their Jordanian relatives. 

Abughaush, who was seeded 10th and considered an outsider for a medal in Rio, used his quick footwork and effective kicks to score a 10-6 upset win over the 2012 London Games bronze medalist.

"It's an indescribable feeling to win the first medal in the history of Jordan in all the sports," said Abughaush, who was knocked out in the second round of the world championships last year.

"It's also a great feeling to listen to the national anthem of Jordan being played in Rio in front of the whole world."

Jordan first competed at the Olympics in 1980 in Moscow. The Middle Eastern country of more than seven million people has never sent more than 10 athletes to compete at a Games, with only eight in Brazil.

Abughaush produced a series of upsets to make the final, taking out twice world champion Lee Dae-hoon in the quarter-finals and then gold medal holder Joel Gonzalez in the last four.

Victory drew wild celebrations from the Jordanian delegation at Carioca Arena 3, with Abughaush, who is studying business management, delaying his post-bout news conference to take a call from the Prince of Jordan.

"He said 'congratulations'. He said he was very happy and he was telling me about how all of the people of Jordan are very happy and are even shedding tears of happiness for me," Abughaush said of the conversation.

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