Guest Post: Mongolian Olympic Team in Tokyo 2020

By Zorigtkhuu Bat-Erdene 

A Mongolian National Olympic Team of 43 athletes participated in the 2020 Summer Olympic Game in Tokyo, Japan in ten different sports.  Mongolian athletes have been participating in every Summer Olympic Games since 1964 in Tokyo, except the one in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles due to its support of the Soviet Union boycott.

The 43 athletes participated in the following sports:

# Sport Men Women Total
1 Archery 1 1 2
2 Athletics 2 1 3
3 Basketball (3X3) 0 4 4
4 Boxing 2 1 3
5 Judo 7 5 12
6 Shooting 1 3 4
7 Swimming 1 1 2
8 Table tennis 1 1 2
9 Weightlifting 0 2 2
10 Wrestling Freestyle 3 6 9
Total 18 25 43

 First Mongolian team sport in Olympic history

Although many new and young athletes qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time, I want to emphasize the Mongolian Women’s 3×3 Basketball team. This is the first time ever Mongolia is participating in the Olympic Games with a team sport. The team is one of only eight countries that qualified for Tokyo 2020. However, two of the original members of the team, D.Ganzul and B.Bolor-Erdene were not able to participate in the Olympic game at the last minute. The head coach announced that these players were excluded because of their injuries. Whereas, one of the two players posted on her Facebook, saying that she is ready for the Olympic Game, does not have any injuries, and wishes success for her teammates.

This caused some social discussion and debate, as these two players are highly skilled and experienced and had contributed to the team’s success in winning the Olympic qualification for the Mongolian team. The main discussion about the two basketball players not being able to join was that the coaches and the 3×3 basketball association had chosen players affiliated with politicians and wealthy families. However, it was too late to complain since the final names of the players were already given to the Olympic officials. Hopefully, there were not political influences, and the coaches made the right decision.

The selected players played incredibly well against leading basketball countries such as the USA, France, Italy, etc., although they could not win against any of their opponents. They have built the path for future basketball players as well as other team sport athletes. It has been a dream for Mongolian basketball fans to see their basketball team playing at the Olympic Games.

Results from the Olympics

As a result of the Tokyo 2020, Mongolia is ranked 71st  out of 206 nations, including Refugee Olympic Team (EOR), with four  medals, one silver and three bronze medals. These  medals have been taken by the judo and freestyle wrestlers as follows:

Silver Saeid Mollaei Judo Men’s 81 kg
Bronze Urantsetseg Munkhbat Judo Women’s 48 kg
Bronze Tsogtbaatar Tsend-Ochir Judo Men’s 73 kg
Bronze Bolortuya Bat-Ochir Freestyle Wome’s 53 kg

Interesting statistics regarding Mongolian participation in the Tokyo 2020 based on the number of medals

Total Medals per Capita Mongolia is ranked 20th
Weighted Medals per Capita Mongolia is ranked 30th
Weighted Medals by GDP Mongolia is ranked 11th
Total Medals Mongolia is ranked 47th

Two sides of Nationalism

Mr. Saeid Mollaei is the first foreign-born athlete who represents Mongolia in the Olympic Games in Mongolian history. He is an Iranian-born Mongolian judoka. The Iranian authorities ordered him to lose deliberately in the semi-final at the Tokyo 2019 World Judo Championship to avoid wrestling against the Israelian judoka in the final round of that tournament. After fleeing to Germany with a two-year visa, he accepted an offer to become a Mongolian citizen from the Mongolian president in 2019. He is delighted that he has Mongolian citizenship and expressed his sincere gratitude to the International Judo Federation (IGF), the former president of Mongolia, Kh Battulga, who offered him the citizenship and specials thanks to the people of Mongolia.

Mongolians warmly welcomed him when he decided to immigrate to Mongolia. He was given the Mongolian name “Molom.” When he got his silver medal from the Tokyo Olympics, it was clear that he is very well respected, loved and embraced like other Mongolian Olympic medal winners.

Molom’s story is inspirational; in a sense, it shows two sides of nationalism. On the one hand, he left Iran due to the country’s nationalism. On the other hand, he represented Mongolia in Judo – a country that harbours strong nationalistic sentiments, especially in wrestling, yet Mongolians were united behind him, embracing him as a son. This is truly a beautiful story of the Olympics and sports.

Boxing in Olympics

Another Olympic sport that Mongolian athletes had a good chance of winning a medal was boxing. The boxers had won the gold, silver and bronze medals in boxing from the previous three Olympic Games, Rio 2016, London 2012 and Beijing 2008. Unfortunately, our boxers were not able to get any Olympic medals from Tokyo 2020.

E. Tsendbaatar (Men’s 52-57 kg) fought for the bronze medal against a Russian boxer. The referees gave his opponent a very doubtful victory even though Tsendbaatar dominated for the first two rounds. Regarding this decision, the Mongolian Olympic Committee appealed it formally, unlike the protest in 2016 where the coaches took off their clothes. Unfortunately, the decision remained as it was.

After his fight, he mentioned during the interview that he lost his bronze medal opportunity along with his chance to change his life. Meaning that if he could have got any medal from the Olympics, he had an opportunity to change his life because Mongolia awards a one-time cash prize and a monthly stipend for its Olympic medalists. As a Mongolian watching the games, his expression made me feel sad realizing the fact that he was carrying a burden of his whole life along with the punches from his opponent.

Mongolia rewards its Olympic medalists as follows:

One-time Monthly
Gold 120 000 000 MNT 4 000 000 MNT
Silver 60 000 000 MNT 3 000 000 MNT
Bronze 30 000 000 MNT 2 000 000 MNT

In addition to the state rewards, there will also be rewards from the sponsor organizations, local councils and businesses.

Issues that require further attention to improve the success

Many athletes ( weightlifting, boxing, judo, freestyle wrestling etc.) competed for the medals in the semi-final, which shows that our athletes are highly competitive in individual sports and have the high physical potential to take more medals from the Olympics. However, sports are not all about physical training; athletes need more psychological support and their physiotherapist before, during and after their contests. A Japanese sport’s physiotherapist who has been working with the Mongolian judo team had posted on his social account about the importance of physiotherapy. Unfortunately, he was not able to go to Tokyo 2020 with his team for some reason. He could have helped not only the judo team, but he could also have provided his treatment to wrestling, boxing teams etc., if he went to the Tokyo 2020 with the team and results might have been different, who knows.

Hopefully, officials and sports associations will ensure sending the essential people such as psychologists and physiotherapists on time with the athletes to both the summer and winter Olympic games.

Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Game is on its way. Although Mongolians are not expecting medals from the athletes who will participate in the winter Olympics, we hope that our athletes will be breaking their personal and our country’s records in Beijing. I look forward to seeing more athletes succeed in the next Olympic Games.

About the author

Bat-Erdene ZORIGTKHUU currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. He graduated from MUST and is aiming to complete a Master’s degree at Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering of the University of British Columbia. Zorigtkhuu’s research focuses on Mining Local Procurement (Local Content) in Mongolia.

Professional background: Zorigtkhuu worked for the biggest coal mining company (Energy-Resources) in Mongolia and an “International Medical Center (Intermed Hospital)” project that was jointly commissioned by MCS group in Mongolia.





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