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Like most countries Bulgaria has had its good and bad moments at the Olympic games. However, the moments that are long remembered are the ones that show the athletes strength and courage and their will to continue no matter what, even if they don’t seem to have a chance. Here are a few of the recent Bulgarian Olympic underdog stories to inspire you.
Rumyana Neykova is a Bulgarian rower with three Olympic medals, a gold, a silver and a bronze in Single Sculls. Her achievement at the Summer Olympics in Sydney in 2000 was widely debated, as for a certain time after the final it was unclear who was the gold medalist because Rumyana Neykova and Belarusian Ekaterina Karsten were very close. The photo finish showed Rumyana was second and she got the silver medal. Eight years later, during the Olympic Games in Athens, she finally won the gold medal.
Yordan Yovchev is the best Bulgarian gymnast of all time (with four Olympic medals) and the only male gymnast in history to take part in six Olympic Games (the only woman gymnast to do so is Oksana Chusovitina who managed to take part in seven Olympic Games). Although Yovchev didn’t win a medal in London 2012, his participation was seen as a huge achievement because he was recovering from a shoulder trauma. He has now officially retired from the sport.
Evgenia Radanova is the most successful Bulgarian short track speed skater. One of the hardest moments in her career is when she fell on the ice with a fellow skater and a skate cut her face severely. Despite the physical and psychological trauma, she came back and managed to win the silver medal in 500 m short track skating at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics only a year later. She won the bronze in 1500 m short track, too!
Stanka Zlateva is a female freestyle wrestler who is now retired. During the London Summer Olympics in 2012 (the worst for Bulgaria since the end of communism), Stanka Zlateva managed to win a silver medal even though she was suffering from many injuries. Her coach Simeon Shterev told the media that she experienced such pain from the injuries that she was thinking about retiring. Despite this she was one of the only two Bulgarian medallists at the London Olympics.
Ivet Lalova is an athlete specializing in 100 m and 200 m sprint. Even though she could never win an Olympic medal (only European championships), she is loved by Bulgarians for her perseverance and spirit. During a warm up in 2005 Lalova crashed into another athlete and broke a hip bone, an accident that took her out of sports for two years. Nevertheless, during the 2008 Summer Olympics in, she made it to the semi-final of the 100 m sprint.