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Kosovo judo hero Majlinda Kelmendi was ready for gold

Kosovo judo hero Majlinda Kelmendi was ready for gold

21 Aug 2016 16:40
David Finch /

One of the historic moments at the Olympic Games was the gold medal for Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo. It was a unique medal for the debuting country and Kelmendi was welcomed like a queen in her country. In the Olympic venue Carioca 2 just after her victory she reacted on her historical performance.

On winning the gold medal:

"I was really ready for this competition. I felt so motivated, because my back number was Kosovo and it was the first time that Kosovo was in the Olympics. I wanted so badly to win."

On her competition day:

"Before the semifinal I was a little nervous, which is normal, I think. The Japanese Misato Nakamura (JPN) is for me the strongest in the U52kg. She is a legend and a triple world champion. I knew that it was going to be a hard fight. When I won the semifinal, I knew that the gold medal was mine.

On the emotion on the podium:

"I had so many things on my mind when I was on the podium, saw my flag and heard my anthem."

On what she expects will change in her life:

"In my personal life I have everything what I always wanted. For these four years I was dreaming all the time about the Olympic gold medal. I had the European title, the world title and I just wanted to take the Olympic title.

"Last year was extremely hard for me, because I got injured. So many injuries and it was so hard to come back, not just physically, but also mentally. While you are in hospital your opponents are training four or three times a day. But I kept going and I don't think that there is anything now that will change in my life.

"I don't think there is not one person who speaks Albanian who doesn't know me. I don't think I will get more popular. But maybe people will respect me much more now, because it is the first Olympic gold medal for Kosovo, Albania or for all people who speak Albanian."

On her injuries:

"I had a knee injury, my ligament. Then I trained for seven, eight hours a day and because of that I injured my back. Then I injured my left hand and it was all so messed up. I felt like I'll never get healthy again, I'll never go to fight again."

On her future:

" I'm young, I'm just 25 and I think I have ten years more in judo. I really love judo. I don't do it for money, I don't do it to get famous. I live for judo.

"The hard trainings are not a bad thing for me. When I train hard, I just feel so good. Then I go to competition and I want everybody to watch me and to show to everybody how good I am, how strong I am."

On the significance of her victory to Kosovo:

"It means a lot. We have survived a war. There are still kids who don't know if their parents are alive, there are still kids, who don't have enough to eat or notebooks or books to go to school. From this country I become Olympic champion, that's just huge for us.

"Even if we have so many problems and even though we are not so rich, we can achieve big things. You just need to work hard and believe in yourself. Even if from Kosovo you don't have so much opportunities in life, it is still too early, it is 15, 16 years after the war and we still need time. But need to work hard."

On Thomas Bach (GER), president of the International Olympic Committee, who presented the medals:

"A year ago he came to Kosovo and he said, 'I am here to support you'. Today he said, 'remember, we made a deal and now you realised it'. These words made me cry. I would like to thank him so much in the name of our federation and my country."

On how different this victory is from winning the world championship title:

"The world championship is sometimes stronger and harder than the Olympics. You have two Japanese, two Mongolians, two Germans. But the Olympics are the Olympics. There are so many important people like today the president of my country and Thomas Bach. When you have this kind of people around you, you just want to win. The motivation gets bigger and bigger."