TALLINN - Estonia went wild when Gerd Kanter claimed the country's first gold medal of the summer Olympic Games in the men's discus throw.
Kanter won in style, with a throw of 68.82, a full meter farther than his nearest rival, Piotr Malachowski of Poland. In a double whammy for the Baltics, Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania won the bronze medal. This was a slight disappointment, however, as Alekna was considered Kanter's nearest rival.
Toomas Tonise, head of the Estonian Olympic Committee, told The Baltic Times that Kanter had been supremely confident of victory.
"He was absolutely sure about winning," Tonise told The Baltic Times from Beijing.
The win was particularly poignant because it comes the day before Estonia celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Singing Revolution.
At a night song festival held to commemorate the event, huge cheers rang across the ground when Kanter appeared on the screen clutching his gold medal and waving to the crowds.
"He is the most popular man in Estonia right now," Tonise said, adding that the small contingent of Estonians will be celebrating into the night.
Kanter's discus landed at 63.42 in the opening round, at 66.38 in the second round and at 62.78 in the third round.
His fifth attempt failed, and on the final attempt he was unable to improve the result.
The win comes at the time when questions of national security and survival are on the rise with increased Russian aggression, ethnic tensions and a possible recession (see story Page 12).
Festivalgoers said it was the best present the nation could have gotten, but it was also a personal triumph for Kanter because there was so much pressure on him to win.
"Obviously it makes me feel proud, but I am more happy for Kanter, because any sportsman has given up so much to get where they are in life," one festival-goer said.
Another Estonian in the competition, Aleksander Tammert, threw his first try into the net. His 61.32 in round two and 61.38 in round three eliminated him from the final part of the competition. Tammert finished the competition in 12th place.
Kanter competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics but didn't reach the final. His Lithuanian rival has a personal best which is better than Kanter's, so victory wasn't guaranteed.
The choir at the festival was 6,000 strong, and the crowd numbered in the tens of thousands.