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NEWS 08 Aug 16

Kelmendi Wins Kosovo its First Olympic Gold

After Majlinda Kelmendi won a gold for judo in Rio, national leaders along with thousands of people took to social media to rejoice over the country’s first-ever Olympic medal.

Die Morina
Majlinda Kelmendi, Kosovo judoka. | Photo by Markus Schreiber/AP

Majlinda Kelmendi made history on Sunday night after becoming the first athlete from Kosovo to bring home a gold in the country's first-ever Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.

After the win, supporters of the Kosovo national team took to social media to heap praise on Kelmendi as “Kosovo’s Golden Girl”, “Golden Pride” “MyLinda”. One fan wrote:

 After her victory, Kelmendi, a two-times world champion, shed tears while receiving her medal, declaring that she had lived for this moment for the last four years.

"This means a lot. People, especially kids, in Kosovo look to me as a hero. I just proved to them that even after the war, even after we survived a war, if they want something they, can have it," she said.

“If they want to be Olympic champions, they can be. Even if we come from a small country, a poor country,” Kelmendi added on receiving the medal.

Driton Kuka, Kelmendi’s coach, wrote on Facebook: “The sacrifice has been paid off. The most beautiful tears of my life.”

Hashim Thaci, Kosovo's President, who was in Rio watching Kelmendi live, also showed his pride on Facebook.

“Majlinda personifies a new history of sports and Kosovo’s international success,” Thaci wrote.

Isa Mustafa, the Kosovo Prime Minister, also praised Kelmendi’s success. “What many countries have failed to do in decades of participation in the Olympic Games, our beloved Kosovo, with its brilliant heroine Majlinda Kelmendi, did in its first Olympics,” wrote Mustafa.

Kelmendi’s final duel was with Italian judoka Odette Giuffrida, after winning three fights on Sunday.

After already winning the world and European judo championships, Kelmendi was missing only this medal.

Kelmendi won the European Judo Championship in Russia in April. This win was deemed as a diplomatic victory as well because she notably convinced Russia, a firm opponent of recognition of Kosovo’s independence, to play the Kosovo national anthem - which created some controversy.

Four years ago, at the 2012 London Olympics, Kelmendi had to compete under the Albanian flag. This year, she was the flag bearer for Kosovo at the Parade of Nations during Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies in Rio.

Rio is the first Olympics in which Kosovo athletes are competing under their own flag, after Kosovo was accepted as a member of the International Olympic Committee in 2014.

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