Home / China / Sports

Kelmendi delivers Kosovo's first gold

By Agence France-Presse | China Daily | Updated: 2016-08-09 08:01

Majlinda Kelmendi won Kosovo's first Olympic gold medal at its first Games, putting her fledgling country on the sporting map and sending a message of hope to its new generation.

The 25-year-old sank to her knees in tears after beating Italy's Odette Giuffrida in the women's judo 52kg final.

She ran to hug a small group of supporters chanting "Kosovo! Kosovo!"

"I have always wanted to show the world that Kosovo is not just a country that has gone through war," she said with the national flag draped around her shoulders.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and has since had its own scrap for recognition.

Every sign of statedom counts, and Kelmendi was in the spotlight so much in the months leading up to Kosovo's Olympic debut that she went into hiding with her coach to train.

She emerged to show her pride carrying the Kosovo flag at the opening ceremony on Friday.

"This medal means a lot, not only for sports in Kosovo, but for all Kosovo as a country.

War survivors

"We have survived a war. There are still kids who don't know if their parents are alive, don't have anything to eat or books to go to school. So the fact of becoming Olympic champion is just huge for all of us."

About 100 countries have given their diplomatic stamp to Kosovo. It has been recognized by the International Olympic Committee for less than two years.

But thanks to Kelmendi, the sporting credibility of the 100th country to win an Olympic gold medal will not be disputed.

IOC President Thomas Bach presented her with the gold.

"I had so many things going on in my mind when I was on the podium. Then came Mr Thomas Bach," she said.

"A year ago, he came to Kosovo and said: 'I'm here to support you and I want to see you win in Rio'. Today he said: 'You remember that you had a dream, now you realized it.' It made me very proud."

Kelmendi took control of the final from the start, pinning the 21-year-old Giuffrida quickly to score her single-point yuko. Highlighting her reputation for nerves of steel, Kelmendi never gave up her slight advantage.

"Everyone in Kosovo has watched my combats and expected to see me win. That is why I was to motivated," said Kelmendi, who competed for Albania at the 2012 London Games before Kosovo got its IOC badge.


Editor's picks
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349