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Turkmenistan Honors Its First Olympic Medalist

Turkmen weightlifter Polina Guryeva

Turkmenistan honored its first Olympic medal winner on August 21 with a lavish ceremony where she was showered with gifts.

The 21-year-old weightlifter Polina Guryeva won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo by lifting a total of 217 kilograms in the 59-kilogram category.

It was the first Olympic medal won by an athlete from Turkmenistan since the Central Asia country gained its independence in the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Turkmenistan's authoritarian president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, presented Guryeva with an apartment, a luxury sports utility vehicle, and a cash award of about $50,000.

Berdymukhammedov's son, Serdar, handed over the gifts to the weightlifter during the ceremony in Ashgabat.

He read the president's remarks for the occasion, saying that Guryeva's medal helped “increase glory, prestige, and authority of the sovereign homeland” and was a “source of immense pride for the entire people.”

The Olympic winner told the gathering of athletes and government officials that she dedicated her medal “to the Turkmen people and the country's president in honor of the 30th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence.”

Based on reporting by AP