Distria Krasniqi's wrote history for Kosovo, another beautiful story written by Krasniqi and her coach Driton Kuka. Krasniqi is now one of the big names in this sport. She claimed the gold at the first day of the Olympic Games in Tokyo fighting U48kg. A few years ago Krasniqi was world class athlete U52kg and had to step down. A hazardous but well taken risk with a golden ending.
Clearly a little less powerful than her opponent, Funa Tonaki used every single opportunity to put Distria Krasniqi (KOS) off balance and followed every action in ne-waza. Krasniqi who had been ahead of everyone throughout the day seemed a little shy now that she was competing for gold but twenty seconds before the end, as nothing was written on the scoreboard, she executed a beautiful uchi-mata, that put Tonaki on her shoulder for a clear waza-ari.
Five years ago Majlinda Kelmendi opened the door when she became the first ever Olympic medallist for Kosovo and it was a gold medal. Here in Tokyo, the small Kosovan federation, in terms of numbers, is producing a second Olympic champion. The efficiency is impressive.
Distria Krasniqi said, "This is a second Olympic medal in the history of Kosovo. It’s the second gold in a row in the same sport: judo. It means a lot and I hope it will be an inspiration for children but I also hope it won’t be the only one in Tokyo. I hope we will bring home more medals. I was the first chance and I took it but I’m not the only one who is ready. There are more chances in the coming days."
Daria Bilodid was more flamboyant when she won her two world titles and apparently the break due to the pandemic did not help her to stay on top. Since the beginning of the day, she seemed tired and looking for energy but it is during difficult days that you recognise big champions. In the bronze medal contest Shira Rishony looked in position to control the match from the beginning and this is exactly what she did until a fatal mistake, that Bilodid didn't let go of, to pin down Rishony for ippon. Bilodid's tears at the end were probably a mixture of feelings. She was sad because she clearly came for the gold medal.
Daria Bilodid declared, “In the end I felt I had no strength. I was psychologically and physically exausted but I did everything to win a medal. Now it might sound strange but I don’t yet feel the joy for the medal. My emotions are not ready yet but I can tell you that to fight in here, where judo was born and in the Budokan where I won my second world title is something very special.”
Portuguese Catarina Costa resisted with determination against Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL), dreaming of the bronze medal, but the Mongolian legend didn't offer her the chance to celebrate as she applied a kansetsu-waza technique to win the first Olympic medal of her impressive career. This is also a first medal for Mongolia in front of the Prime Minister of Mongolia, who was among the guests of the day.
Semi finals women U48kg
In the semi final Daria Bilodid was the first in action, in a match where the competitors had totally different morphology, Funa Tonaki being small and compact, with the Ukrainian being much taller than anyone in the category. It seemed obvious that Bilodid had been studied carefully over the past months and that videos had been played thousands of times. Bilodid needs a strong left arm over the head of her opponent. Tonaki's mission was therefore very simple, to block that arm from going over the head and to attack before Bilodid, with low shoulder movements, while avoiding going to the ground since Bilodid is well known for her sangaku-jime. At the end of normal time, each had a shido to their name and everything was still possible. Looking tired, Bilodid still seemed to be capable of winning that incredibly important semi-final, especially when Tonaki was penalised a second time, but the Japanese judoka exploited a tiny opportunity on the floor to pin her opponent for ippon and to offer a first chance for the host country to step on top of the podium.
Having shown incredible power throughout the early rounds, Distria Krasniqi of Kosovo, who was heavily supported by her delegation, started the semi-final calmly but surely to impose her strong kumi-kata and score a first waza-ari before even half the bout had passed. In front of her was a well-known competitor on the World Judo Tour, Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL), but the former world champion seemed to be totally incapable of finding the slightest throwing opportunity. Distria Krasniqi thus qualified for the final to already offer a second Olympic medal to her country, after Majlinda Kelmendi's title in Rio five year’s ago.
In the repechage contests Shira Rishony seemed quicker to get back on her feet after the break that followed the morning session, slightly taller than her opponent but still not being able to really gain the upper hand. With a shido each at the end of the contest, it was time for golden score and there Rishony needed only 18 seconds to score with a magnificent sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi for a clear ippon, to secure a place in the bronze medal match. Earlier in the day the Israeli was defeated in the quarter-final by Urantsetseg Munkhbat (MGL).
Despite two really good first contests, the reigning Olympic champion, Paula Pareto (ARG), saw her dream of a second title being crushed by Funa Tonaki (JPN) in the quarter-final, after a Japanese style combination from osae-komi-waza to shime-waza for ippon and a slight elbow pain for the Argentinian. Nevertheless, after the break, the pocket-sized champion faced Catarina Costa of Portugal for the possibility to keep dreaming of an Olympic podium. The Portuguese judoka scored a first waza-ari with a shoulder movement and despite the two shido she had collected earlier, she managed to keep her advantage. At the end of the repechage match, the two athletes hugged for a long time.
Paula Pareto is the first current Olympic Champion to lose her title in Tokyo and she will not reach the podium, but she remains an amazing champion, who is more than just a judoka, but a role model for society. Before the whole judo world moves from one to the next generation. Pareto honoured Costa but in fact realized this was her last contest for the former world and Olympic champion who is a doctor and helped to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and was honoured by carrying the IOC flag at the Opening Ceremony.