Majlinda Kelmendi The Olympic gold medallist in the women's under-52 kilogram category at Rio 2016, has retired from the sport at the age of 30. Kosovo’s first ever Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi has announced her retirement. Kelmendi was also a double World Champion, Junior World Champion and four times European Champion. In total she has won an incredible 18 gold medals on the IJF World Tour.
Kelmendi rose to prominence when she became junior world champion in 2009, and then won her first International Judo Federation (IJF) Grand Prix event in Tunis in 2010.
She was a perennial IJF Grand Prix and Grand Slam gold medallist, European champion on four occasions, and had a four-year spell as world number one in her weight division.
She did not compete in 2018 due to injury but when she returned in 2019, Kelmendi no longer possessed the aura of invincibility. At the 2019 Tokyo World Championships, she lost to Japan’s new star Uta Abe in the semifinal.
Although she didn’t exactly retire on top, Kelmendi does go down in history as one of the most successful judokas ever, having won every major title worth winning. She is also a trailblazer who has played a big role in popularizing judo in Kosovo.
So, what’s next for Kelmendi? Her coach, Driton Kuka, has indicated she will take on some kind of coaching role: “Now that she retires from competition, I want her to be next to me on the tatami because I want her to bring her experience, her knowledge and her fantastic spirit.”