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Majlinda Kelmendi writes Olympic history with judo gold
7 Aug 2016 23:45
Majlinda Kelmendi put Kosovo on the medal board for the first time in its Olympic history. Kelmendi won the gold in the women’s judo U52kg division in the final against Italian Odette Giuffrida.
In the final match, against the Odette Giuffrida of Italy, Kelmendi scored an early point, but conceded a penalty for being too defensive. As the match drew to a close she skirted the line with delay tactics, but ultimately prevailed to earn the gold. After her victory was announced, Kelmendi hugged Giuffrida and then walked off the mat in tears. Wearing a blue uniform that matched some of the Kosovo flags being waved in the arena, a teary Kelmendi waved to the crowd and raised her arms in victory. Kelmendi defeated Misato Nakamura of Japan in the semi-final. Nakamura took one of the bronze medals, while Natalia Kuziutina of Russia earned the other bronze.
The 25-year-old Kelmendi carried her country’s flag at the Rio 2016 opening ceremony and was aware of the significance of wearing Kosovo at the Olympic Games on her backpatch. "I have dreamed of this for a long time and finally it is coming.”
Kelmendi reached the final via victories over Evelyne Tschopp in half a minute and took revenge on Christianne Legentil of Mauritius who defeated Kelmendi at the 2012 Olympic Games. The two-time world champion hails from the small city of Peja and represented Albania at London 2012, just after the IJF recognised Kosovo in the spring of that year.
Finallist Odette Giuffrida was a surprise, although she was seeded as number eight, she was in the same pool as number one Andreea Chitu of Romania whom she defeated in the quarter final. First she won against Germany’s strong lady Mareen Kraeh. In the semi final Giuffrida bested Chinese Yingnan Ma who surprised Brazil’s home favourite Erika Miranda who finished fifth today and left Brazil with empty hands after two match days. Miranda had a tough last fight against Nakamura and lost that bout in the golden score. Russian Kuziutina defeated Ma Yingnan for bronze. Kuziutina lost to Nakamura in the quarter final, but came back via Legentil and won Russia’s second medal in two days.
Kelmendi and her coach Driton Kuka totally met the expectations of all people in her small country Kosovo where judo is now the most popular sport for sure.
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