Olympics Special. Majlinda – Much More than Olympic Champion

20 July 2021 By Paul Martin

Majlinda – Much More than Olympic Champion

[Unless otherwise indicated, all sound on Videotape [SOVT] is in English.]

]Music: Kosovo National Anthem over Kosovan flag.]

Sovt: “Majlinda Kelmendi”.

At 0 12
 Kosovo is a new country that’s only been competing on the world stage for less than a decade. Its main sports star is in judo – a young woman called Majlinda Kelmendi. It was the situation in her war-torn Eastern European country that propelled her towards judo.

Sovt Majlinda
At 0 40
I was just eight years old when we had a war in Kosovo. Me and my family, we couldn’t escape from the house or from the city — so for about three months we were inside this house.
At 1 05 
After the war, my parents lost their jobs. They closed a lot of factories. But the best thing is that immediately after the war I started to do judo. I just wanted to become somebody through judo. Do you know, when I won a medal for the first time my mum and my dad were really happy. So I said: yeah I have found a way to make my parents happy.

At 1 33
A war memorial in Kosovo’s capital city Pristina, for Kosovans killed in the battle for independence. In 2008 the country literally became a ‘Newborn’.  But its government and its sports bodies were shunned – prisoners of international politics.

At 1 54 Sovt Majlinda.My mum and my dad did all this. There is no newspaper that they don’t have. ‘Super Melinda’ (laughs).

[Commentary Natsovt]: The gold-medal match in the under 52 kilograms. Kelmendi is a world champion.  And there is a counter attack and she’s taken her down. Then she gets a submission and it’s all over very very quickly. Kelmendi wins the gold medal.

 At 2 17
On the mat, success followed success. She became a double world champion. But could she bring glory to her new country by winning Olympic gold?

At 2 30 Sovt: Driton Kuka

Ippon Judo Club, Peje, Kosovo.

When I was in the ex-Yugoslavia team I was one of the most promising athletes. And then because the war started in ex-Yugoslavia I cancelled my career when I was only 19. Then all these things that I could not do by myself as an athlete, I wanted to put into Majlinda and other athletes. And I think I did it.  At 2 58She was not some extraordinary talent.  But when she goes to competition she becomes like a lion. Really, I think she has a big heart for fighting. She’s a real fighter. She has a big spirit.

At 3 16
Kosovo‘s children idolised her.

 At 3 21
Why do you want to be like me
[child speaks in Albanian]
At 3 30 ( Majlinda translating) Because she is strong, she wins a lot of cups, and she travels a lot. [laughs]

 At t 3 37 Family means everything to Majlinda. A good-luck charm given to her by her grandmother dangles in her car.

At 3 46Sovt Majlinda
 She gave it to me when I got a new car.  She said: ‘Keep it — it’s good for luck.’
Is it working?
I think so. [laughs]

At 3 57
 Majlinda made no secret of her next ambition.

At 4 00 Sovt Majlinda
This is the cup that I won in my world championship in Chelyabinsk when I became world champion for the second time. So I keep it here in my room, and I watch it every morning, and I think: “Why not? I can do it.”

At 4:18: In bars and cafés across Europe Kosovans gathered to see Majlinda going for gold. At 4 35 Tension with seconds to go, and then:…[Applause.]

At 4 46 Voxpop 1:
Great, great.
Voxpop 2: It’s a good start, and we are on the map!

At 4 54: [Interviewer:]  You created history by winning gold for Kosovo. Are you aware of the political ramifications of that, what that means politically back home? 
Sovt Majlinda at 5 03
Well first of all, that means a lot to me, but the most important thing is that it means a lot to my country, not just for sport in Kosovo. It means a lot for Kosovo as a country. I am so happy that I can also help my country through sport and on the political side. Yes I feel good and I feel blessed that I can help my country.

[Interviewer]: Were you aware when you were fighting for the gold , how much it would mean to your country?

Yes I knew that the gold medal from the Olympics would mean too much for my country. I am happy that for maybe two or three days I can make happy people in Kosovo, especially kids who watch me as a hero now.

At 5 57
There was more. Much more. Parading on a victory bus with the Kosovan team and her coach, Majlinda displayed a powerful symbol of her new country, her fingers spread out like eagle’s wings.

At 6 18And later, a more personal home-coming.
At 6 22 Sovt Majlinda
I’m feeling so good. I am back home and in my neighbourhood. I grew up with these people.  They know me better than anyone. Home sweet home!

At 6 28
Majlinda’s country is still divided — literally.  Patrolled by European peacekeeping vehicles, the territory north of this river is still held by citizens loyal to Serbia. They do not share in Majlinda’s triumphs. They do not recognise her right to be at the Olympics at all.

She could now have any job she wants in her home country. Prime minister? Why not, says the Prime Minister.

At 7 03. Isa Mustafa
Kosovo Prime Minister
Of course we would welcome Majlinda to be in the highest positions possible. It would be nice to have her as a future prime minister of Kosovo.

At 7 15.  Memli Krasniqi
Kosovan Government Minister
Majlinda is liked  by everyone. She is the Queen of Sports. And she should remain above politics. She should remain above divisions. She should be a symbol of unity, of people getting together and rallying around the flag.

At 7:31 Sovt Majlinda
For me, here in Kosovo people love me, and support me so much. You know, there are no monies in this world that can bring the feeling that I have here in my country. When I see kids who get inspired from me and look at me as a hero.  So, you can be a millionaire and you can have lots of money, but it won’t make people respect you wherever you go.

At 8 00
Majlinda’s triumphs are celebrated at her old school — on the wall, and in the garden. She is 30 years old now, but she’s going for Olympic gold again in Tokyo. And even before she makes her second bid for Olympic glory, she has already been immortalised — in stone.   Majlinda Kelmendi — a legend in her own lifetime.

Ends at fades with titles at 8 29.