Most of you will know the story of Avtar Singh, India’s only Judoka at Rio 2016. He belongs to a small village of Gurudaspur in Punjab. His parents Shingara Singh and Sukhvinder Kaur are barely able to make ends meet. Avtar’s father Shingara is a Class-4 employee in the health department who broke a fixed deposit of Rs 4 lakh saved in 21 years for their son’s training.

Avtar’s Rio 2016 campaign was brought to an end in double quick time, in the very first round. 

But if you are feeling bad about that, spare a thought for his opponent. 

Congolese refugee Popole Misenga won over the Rio Olympic arena Wednesday first with his win over Avtar, followed by a brave loss to the world champion in 90kg mens’ judo.

Misenga, who is part of the unprecedented team of 10 refugees competing under the Olympic flag, defied the odds to defeat India’s Avtar Singh, ranked 71 in the world.

Through to the last 16, Misenga faced Kwak Dong-han of South Korea, the world champion and world number one.

The three-quarters full arena threw itself behind Misenga, who asked for asylum in Brazil in 2013, cheering his every move and booing the referee when a penalty went against him.

For four of the regulation five minute bout, Misenga held his own in a defensive performance sprinkled with attempts to throw the champion. At one stage the crowd loudly chanted: “Popole, Popole!”

The South Korean put an end to the drama with a sudden and almost instant immobilization which had the refugee tapping out for an ippon.

When the opponents rose to their feet to bow, the applause for Popole made it sound as if he had been the winner.

Misenga said his credible showing in fending off the South Korean’s fearsome arsenal of throws, forcing him to go for an immobilization, had inspired him to reach new heights.

“I managed to get in. I fought and won one fight, I fought the champion of the world and he didn’t manage to throw me,” Misenga said.

He called having the mostly Brazilian crowd on his side “very emotional.”

“Brazil was rooting for me!” he said, disbelievingly.

As for what’s next, Misenga, who spent eight days hiding in a forest as a terrified child to flee bloody fighting, laid down a challenge for himself — and refugees everywhere.

“I’ll become stronger to face the world champion again,” he said.

“I’m sending a message to the children of the Congo and to refugees too: believe in yourself.”

His fellow Congolese refugee Yolande Bukasa was not so lucky, losing in the first round to Israel’s Linda Bolder, who is 11th ranked in the world and went on to lose in the quarter finals.

“I feel great. I heard many people shouting for me: I felt as if I was in my own home,” Bukasa said.

Losing, she said, did not dishearten her.

“These fights are not just about judo,” she said. “This is a fight for my life.”

They might have lost, but in our eyes they are the biggest winners this Olympics!