'Our Country Blessed by God,' Says Olympian After Winning First Ever Medal for Guatemala

Olympian Erick Barrondo made Guatemala proud after winning a silver medal in the 20-kilometer walk at the 2012 London Olympics last week; the first medal for that country in the history of the Games.

Barrondo, 21, finished the race, with a time of 1 hour, 18 minutes and 57 seconds, just 12 seconds away from the gold medal, but beating Chinese contender Wang Zhen by almost half minute into third place.

Barrondo has testified that obtaining the first Olympic medal for his country was the biggest blessing of his life. He explained that Guatemala "is a country that has suffered, but today I can say it's a country blessed by God."

The athlete also said that he wishes other fellow Guatemalans would follow his example, pursuing an interest in sports instead of being part of the crime wave currently eroding society in the country.

"I'm going to feel the happiest man in the world if someone drops the knife or the gun and picks up a pair of running shoes to engage in sports," Barrondo said.

The athlete, who comes from a relatively poor family, said that he had bought a TV so that his parents could watch him compete on the Olympic Games.

"We do not have a good financial situation, but I made an effort and bought a TV so that they could see me win a medal, I had faith in winning," he explained.

Barrondo's win has received a hugely popular response from people in Guatemala, and hundreds have turned to social media to show support to the athlete.

President of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina said that "he's going to be welcomed as a hero, as he deserves. We're going to be waiting for him with open arms."

Guatemalan singer Ricardo Arjona also congratulated Barrondo, saying in Twitter: "Erick Barrondo, God Bless you. I'm more proud than ever. Our first medal thanks to you."

Due to Barrondo's historic win, Guatemala lawmakers approved recently a special honor for the athlete, making him a "Knight of the Order of the Sovereign Congress," which will also grant him a prize of $64,000.