Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Tuesday, 26 August 2008 14:03 UK

Against the Odds: How did they do?

Montage of the athletes

Before the Olympics started the BBC's Against the Odds series profiled six athletes heading to the Games despite huge obstacles.

Here catch up with the competitors to find out how they fared on the world's biggest sporting stage.

VIJENDER KUMAR - INDIA

Vijender montage

When the BBC first met Vijender, 22, the young boxer told how he was struggling for recognition in cricket-mad India.

But he returned to a rapturous welcome from thousands of his countrymen after winning a bronze medal, one of just three medals won by the Indian team.

Vijender - before the Olympics

Described by one Indian newspaper as "a new hero of Indian sports", Vijender was showered with rose petals and carried aloft by supporters from his home town, Bhiwani, who had descended on Delhi's international airport.

Earlier, taxi drivers in Bhiwani (Vijender's father is one of them) handed out sweets in celebration of their native son's achievement.

Vijender has already met President Pratibha Patil, and is reportedly being lined up for a sponsorship deal with Adidas India.

Indian sports chiefs, who usually struggle to explain a lack of success, predict a rosy future.

"Normally even one medal sparks a lot of enthusiasm," said Suresh Kalmadi, president of the Indian Olympic Association.

"The scenario will definitely change."

NERY BRENES - COSTA RICA
Nery montage

Nery, 22, born in the impoverished port town of Limon in Costa Rica, went to the Olympics as one of his nation's best hopes for a medal on the track.

He got through his first round, then ran a personal best time of 44.94secs. But unfortunately it was not enough to get Nery beyond the semi-final stage of the competition.

Nery Brenes struggled for years to get funding

"It was an amazing experience," he told the BBC. "And I feel happy to have participated in such a huge competition.

"The most memorable time for me was being with my team-mates and running for my country. I felt so proud to represent Costa Rica at such a big event."

He said he was not interested in being a "big celebrity" - all he wanted to do was "run".

"I am young and if I train hard, I can make it for the next Olympics," Nery added. "I just need to keep training. I just want to run and be fast."

SAMIYA YUUSF OMAR - SOMALIA
Samiya montage

Hers was the slowest time out of all the 46 competitors in the women's 200m (32 seconds), but for 16-year-old Somali sprinter Samiya Yuusf Omar, making it to the Olympics at all was a victory.

Most of the athletes in her heat were into their laps of honour by the time Samiya crossed the line in a half-empty Bird's Nest stadium.

But her journey from a dilapidated house in war-torn Mogadishu to the biggest sporting arena of them all was a source of immense pride.

Samiya, close up
Samiya was pressured to stop competing before the Games

"This is the highest thing any athlete can hope for," she said before leaving Beijing.

"It has been a very happy experience for me. I am proud to bring the Somali flag to fly with all of these countries, and to stand with the best athletes in the world."

With luck she hopes to return for another Olympics in the future. Next time she expects to be cheered because she is winning and not because "they only [want] to encourage me" she said.

ZIAD RICHA - LEBANON
Ziad montage

Lebanon's Ziad Richa trained in the hills around war-torn Beirut to take part in the Olympic shooting competition.

Hours after arriving back after his Olympic experience, he was clearing the backlog of work at his day job as a car salesman.

But two weeks earlier he had one of the greatest Olympic honours - carrying the flag for his nation in the Games' opening ceremony and leading the Lebanese team into the stadium.

Ziad faced big hurdles to make the Games

In the final of the skeet competition, he finished 29th, but said he was disappointed with the way he shot on the last day.

"I'm satisfied with the result, but also a bit annoyed with myself. I definitely lacked experience compared to the others, many of whom had been to at least two Olympics before.

"The difference is they know how to handle the situation of being under pressure, and shooting for medals.

"I didn't concentrate well, pressure was very, very high and luck was not by my side."

"But the whole issue, being a part of the Olympics was great. Being among the best 10,500 athletes in the world was an amazing experience.

"Now I'm back to the day job - after 12 days out of the office I came back with a lot of work to do... I'm going to need three or four days to get back to normal."

BERNADETT BACZKO - HUNGARY
Bernadett montage

Judoka Bernadett made it to Beijing after overcoming two serious injuries - and after dealing with the death of her mother.

"The Beijing Olympics were a fantastic experience for me," she told the BBC. "The organisation was excellent. The accommodation, food, training possibilities, the competition space, the entertainment for the athletes...Everything worked like clockwork."

But she was less happy about her own performance.

Bernadett battled against the effects of injury

"The draw went very well for me. On paper, I should have been able to beat my opponents..." She lost her first match to an Australian girl - of Hungarian origin. In the second match she beat a Tunisian. But then she lost to a French girl in the third. And that was it.

She came seventh overall, far from the medals she had dreamt of.

Back in Hungary now, she takes it all philosophically. "I learnt a great deal during the games, from other competitors, techniques which I have already begun to build into my routine," she said.

And the Italian girl who won gold was a rival whom Bernadett actually beat some months ago, in Rome. So she is optimistic about the future. Very optimistic. Especially about the London Olympics in 2012.

Bernadett has already started a one-month break from judo, or at least from the fierce training schedule of the past months. And she has her studies to think of, the autumn term at ELTE, Budapest University, where she is studying physical education, starts in mid-September.

But soon she will be back on the judo mat, to start to apply the hard lessons of Beijing. The European Championships take place in Zagreb in November and in December there is the possibility of competing in Japan - the homeland of her sport.

HEM BUNTING - CAMBODIA

Hem bunting montage

Cambodian marathon runner Hem Bunting was so poor, he lived in the crumbling stadium where he was training for the Olympics - and was struggling even to buy running shoes.

His plight moved many readers of the website, one of whom - Ellis Wyatt - contacted the runner and dispatched some brand new trainers to the Olympic Village in time for Hem's event.

Hem has struggled for funding

Hem - who was the flag-bearer for the Cambodian team - ran a creditable 2h33:32, finishing in 72nd place, some 27 minutes behind the winner, Samuel Kamau Wansiru of Kenya.

"I have felt very comfortable here and the Chinese people have been very helpful and friendly," he told the BBC. "This is the first time for me to compete in such a big event and I feel very fortunate."

"My situation in Cambodia is not good as you know. I don't know if things will improve but I will lobby those in charge to make conditions better for sportsmen and women.

"Before the Beijing, the Olympics was not very well known in Cambodia. But the opening ceremony here was widely watched and I think more people will have awareness."

"As for the future, I will try and train more and more and maybe I will be lucky and qualify for the next Olympics in London."




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