18 April 2020


Extraordinary times usually call for extraordinary actions from extraordinary people. It is impossible to escape the fact that we are all now living in extraordinary times. And yet for current Olympic champion Majlinda KELMENDI (KOS), one of the most extraordinary judoka of the past decade, keeping things as ordinary as possible is her number one priority. We had a chance to chat with one the most successful -52kg category champions of all time. Here is what she had to say.

I’m at home during this difficult period. I live near our usual training centre and I don’t have to leave where I am to travel for training. There are eleven of us who all live close by. We don’t go anywhere except from our homes to the training centre and back so we don’t mix with anyone at all. We are well and our families are all in good health. I suppose the only thing that can be said is that my mum feels a bit locked up. But we all hope that the situation will be over in the near future and we can return to our usual routines.

Being so close to the training centre means that I am not missing any training. I can train with our group and I work a lot with Distria KRASNIQI and Nora GJAKOVA. Because of our location it is also easy to take walks in the mountains and we again don’t have any contact with others. So, in this we are very lucky. The training is good and I feel fit and in good shape. Of course being away from the World Tour means that I don’t have the same rush of adrenaline that you get from preparing, travelling and competing. What is missing is the tension and excitement of testing yourself against others.

This time off has given me the opportunity to reflect on some things in my career and to improve my concentration. Of course I’ve been thinking about the Olympics and remembering my success in Rio. There were some difficult times after my win when I had several injuries. But I’ve managed to return strong and find my way to the podium. I was particularly pleased with my return in Abu Dhabi apart from the final where I had to withdraw through injury. But I followed that up with a win in Tashkent and even though it may not have been the biggest of events I was really pleased with the way I won. However, I was also happy with the bronze medal at the world championships as it confirmed for me that I was on the right track.

It is important for me to stay focused and keep things as close to my normal routine as possible. But I can’t help thinking that it would be nice when things get back to normal to take a holiday with my family; perhaps by the sea, Dubai maybe. I have not been there but it is somewhere I would like to visit.

There will be time enough for holidays after the Games in 2021. Until then I don’t see any changes in the line up of the big names on the Tour and at the next Games. These are likely to be ABE Uta (JPN), Amandine BUCHARD (FRA), Natalia KUZIUTINA (RUS) and perhaps LKHAGVASUREN Sosorbaram (MGL). There really was not any other option for the IOC but to postpone the Games. The situation around the world was too serious and since the announcement we have seen some very bad news from various countries. To be honest I will just concentrate on being ready and if it gives a little more time for injuries to heal then some judoka will be lucky and can feel happy. There is also less stress for those who can now concentrate on recovering without having to compete with injuries.

I’ve always admired NAKAMURA Misato (JPN) and Lucie DECOSSE (FRA). Nakamura always appeared to me to have the perfect temperament, win or lose and she was a real of example of a judoka. I have the chance to talk sometimes with Lucie Decosse and I suppose it must be funny for her to hear that she was my idol.