Nora GJAKOVA (KOS) has been a medal bank for quite a few years. The 31-year-old Olympic champion won her ninth medal at a major event at the beginning of November at the European Championships in Montpellier. On Saturday, she will be aiming for her 10th anniversary medal in front of a home crowd in Pristina. The seventh-ranked player in the world (-57 kg) was available to answer questions on Friday.
How does this Open Home European Championships feel for you?
Nora Gjakova: “Unfamiliar, a bit strange. There’s a lot of hustle and bustle at home, we’re all a bit more irritable, to be honest. I’m not used to being at home the day before a crucial competition. I have to explain myself all the time, I get lots of questions. That can also be a bit annoying…. On the other hand, I’m really looking forward to the support in the hall. My parents will be there, as will many of my cousins from Sweden and Germany. They won’t miss this judo premiere in Kosovo. I hope I can enjoy this kind of special atmosphere. You will always have a certain amount of pressure as a competitive athlete, the only question is how the pressure affects your performance. I try to influence that positively. I feel strong… We really want to win a gold medal at home – and of course we secretly dream of the final – No. 1 versus No. 2, Olympic champion versus Olympic champion, Distria versus myself. This internal duel has never happened before and may never happen again… We’ve been talking about possible final a lot these days. But we’re both professionals enough to know that there are still a few obstacles on the way to the final and the 55,000 euro prize money for winning.”
You injured your elbow in round 1 of your 3rd place finish at the European Championships in Montpellier? How are you feeling ahead of your home match in Pristina?
Gjakova: “I’m 100 per cent fit, the weightlifting went according to plan. The elbow injury is completely healed. I feel ready to win the tournament (it would be my second this year after winning the Grand Slam in Baku in September). That would definitely be a very special one – for Judo Kosovo, for coach Toni and for me.”
What’s next for you in Paris? How often do you think about the Olympic Games?
Gjakova: “I would say I’m getting better all the time. It’s going according to plan. On the other hand, it could always go a little better. The important thing is that I stay healthy. The Olympic year will start for me in Paris – with the Grand Slam in Bercy at the beginning of February.”
Author: EJU Media