Distria KRASNIQI (KOS) has experienced almost everything. The Olympic champion, world number one, four-time Masters winner and former European champion is seeded as number one at the European Championships Open in her home town of Pristina. That wouldn’t be that unusual if it weren’t for two firsts: Distria is competing in front of her home crowd and her family for the first time in her career. And for the first time she is trying out the lightweight category (-57 kg), which is new for her. “In my usual weight class, -52 kg, I would consider myself the top favorite. This time I’m tempted to say: I’m actually an outsider. But I’m looking forward to this challenge!”
The big stars of the scene are known for constantly looking for new challenges. “That’s only natural. As a competitive athlete, you want to get better everyday and are looking for new limits. Ever since I moved to lightweight, I’ve had this dream. I often told (coach) Toni: I want to try it – 57 kg, even if I don’t really belong there in terms of weight… The experience excites me,” says the 28-year-old.
This category hopping is not entirely unknown for Krasniqi. “I did this several times before, when I was still competing in the super lightweight category (-48).”
This was also the case in February 2020, when teammate Majlinda Kelmendi (-52) had to miss the Grand Slam in Paris due to an injury. “My coach (Toni Kuka) then let me start in the higher class and I promptly won the tournament. It would be wonderful if I could do that in Pristina too. But this cannot be assumed. With Timna Nelson Levy (ISR) and Priscilla Gneto (FRA), I would face two very strong fighters on my way to the semifinal. The most important thing is that one of us, Nora or myself, gets gold and maybe the guys like Akil (GJAKOVA) also win a medal for Kosovo. That would be the ideal signal for our judo.”
The 2023 season began for the Olympic champion with a victory at the prestigious Grand Slam in Paris at the beginning of February. Five more podium finishes followed, including the European Championships runner-up title in Montpellier. Only at the World Cup in Doha did Distria Krasniqi have to settle for fifth place. Will the year end with a victory for the world number one (-52)? “Let’s wait and see,” Distria smiles. “I’m a fighter, you should never underestimate me.” That’s not what Saturday is supposed to happen, even if she competes in the lightweight category.
Author: EJU Media