Europe’s youngest nation, tiny Kosovo, wins judo gold at Olympics for the second time — and a third.

25 July 2021 By Paul Martin

The virtually impossible has just happened — again.

May be an image of 3 people and people standing

It had seemed like a one-off but wonderful fluke that a nation with fewer than two million people could win an Olympic gold medal, the first time it competed in the Olympics. That was achieved in 2016 by the intrepid judo athlete Majlinda Kelmendi, making her a national hero.

The tiny western Balkan country, born from war and via intervention from NATO, became independent only in 2008.

Now, two other young ladies — from the same judo club in a small Kosovan town — has done the same as her own heroine — won an Olympic gold. Distria Krasniqi beat her Japanese opponent Funa Tonaki in the final when she scored a point within 20 seconds of the fight going into a ”golden sore’ extra time. That was in the weight category for women under 48 kilograms.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo -  Women's 48kg - Semifinal - Nippon Budokan - Tokyo, Japan - July 24, 2021. Distria Krasniqi of Kosovo reacts after winning REUTERS/Hannah Mckay
Olympic champion Distria Kransniqi points proudly to her country’s badge.

In the next weight category, Kelmendi (who also has won the world championships twice) was aiming for to become Olympic champion for the second time. But it was not to be. Instead, another member of her team struck gold.

Nora Gjakova, 28, another product of the Ippon Judo Club in the town of Peje, triumphed.

The whole team will be paraded on a open-top bus through throngs of exuberant Kosovans as soon as they return in the next few days.

Krasniqi was quoted by as saying: “ 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.

May be an image of 3 people and people standing
Driton Kuka with the two gold-medalists of the 2021 Olympics —
both from his own judo club. was there when the same scene unfolded in 2016, and provided BBC Sport with two graphic video reports.

Here’s a version:

Majlinda Kelmendi provided hope for the previously war-torn Kosovo at the Tokyo Olympics

Majlinda: More Than An Olympic Champion

Double former world and reigning Olympic judo champion Majlinda Kelmendi had a realistic hope to win another Olympic gold in Tokyo for the previously war-torn nation of Kosovo in eastern Europe. This nation of fewer than 2 million people was taking part in the Olympics under its own flag for only the second time – a flag Majlinda carried proudly into the stadium.

See the source image
A photo from the Olympics, shown here to illustrate the strange nature of the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. Krasniqi displays a ribbon for her gold medal that says: Tokyo 2020 — the date it would have been held had it not been for a one-year postponement due to the Covid pandemic. And of course Kransiqi is wearing a mask — though of course judo fighters are bare-faced during the actual contests.