Majlinda Kelmendi’s long and hard struggle finally bore fruit on Sunday as she won Kosovo’s first gold medal at the Olympic Games. These are Kosovo’s first Games as an independent nation.
Kelmendi beat Odette Guiffrida of Italy in the final of the 52-kg weight class of the women’s judo tournament.
The 25-year old belongs to the city of Peja in Kosovo, and has also won two World Championships in 2013 and 2014. Rio is a specially happy hunting ground for Kelmendi, as the 2013 World championship victory had come in the same city.
In the final, Kelmendi wore blue, similar to the colour of Kosovo’s flag. The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, presented her with the gold medal. When asked about the significance of finally being able to wear "KOS" at the Games, she replied, “I have dreamed of this for a long time and finally it is coming.”
Kelmendi’s story of escaping from the killing fields of the conflict-torn southeastern European nation with a population of a little under 1.9 million is nothing short of inspirational. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.
In 2012, her request to participate as an athlete from Kosovo was turned down. Following the rejection of that request, she had asked to compete as an independent athlete, which was also turned down by the IOC.
The Kosovo Olympic Committee was finally recognised on January 1, 2014. She had eventually exercised her right to participate under the Albanian flag, and was knocked out in the round of 16 at London 2012.
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