Israeli judoka, Yarden Gerbi, has become the first Israeli to win a medal at the Rio Olympics, the first Olympic medal for Israel since the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Gerbi suffered an early defeat but came back to win bronze against Japan’s Miku Tashiru in the Judo under 63kg competition.

The 27,-year-old became the world champion in her class in 2013 and is only the seventh Israeli athlete in history to win a medal at an Olympic games, the second woman to do so.

She received much praise from Israel’s leaders, including President Reuven Rivlin who told her, “today, you are our hero.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, “Yarden, you did it. We’re all proud of you.”

In an emotional interview after her victory Gerbi said, “I’m here to win, to give my heart and soul, and I still can’t believe it. Someone wake me up, I can’t believe it.”

“My dream has come true. They say Israelis don’t have the character (to succeed in sports on the world stage) but we do have the character. I gave my life. It paid off. Whoever says Israelis can’t succeed is wrong. It does happen. It does happen.”

She also said that the Israeli flag being raised above her in Rio makes her feel “very proud”.