Winning a gold medal is often considered the standard of excellence at the Olympics.  But as VOA's Jim Stevenson reports from China, sometimes placing second is a huge victory.

Often buried behind the headlines of world records and well-known athletes are the stories of first-time medalists at the Olympics.  In Beijing, Sara Isakovic added her name and her country to the list.

"This is the first time in Slovene swimming that someone has achieved a medal," she said. "And it is a big honor for me."

Isakovic won the European title in the 200-meter freestyle earlier this year.  On Wednesday, she was the silver medalist in the event.  She finished only 0.15 of a second behind the world record set by Italian Federica Pellegrini in the race.  Isakovic touched the wall in 1:54.97.

"I really gave out all my best until my last molecule of energy," she said. "So I just tried to finish it.  And I was second.  If maybe you are thinking I am disappointed for not winning gold, totally not.  Because a silver medal is a huge achievement for me."

Isakova says friends and family were getting up at three in the morning local time in Slovenia to watch her race.

"I have many supporters from all around the world too," said Isakovic. "I know my ex-schoolmates watched me.  Also in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, England, also in Serbia since I am half Serbian.  My whole family there supported me.  So it means a lot to them of course."

Following her silver medal performance, Isakovic is already thinking of an upgrade.

"Definitely in the next Olympics, I am going for gold," she said.

And should she qualify for the 2012 London Games, her family will likely not have to cope with as large a time difference to watch her.