Funa Tonaki, top, of Japan, reacts after losing to Distria Krasniqi, of Kosovo, in their women's 48-kg judo gold medal match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 24, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
View All (6)

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — The whole of Kosovo celebrated Saturday after Distria Krasniqi won the Olympic gold medal in judo, the second-ever Olympic medal for the tiny western Balkan country that became independent only 13 years ago.

Krasniqi beat Funa Tonaki of Japan in the women’s 48-kilogram judo final at the Tokyo Games.

In 2016, Majlinda Kelmendi became the first Kosovar athlete to win a medal at the Olympic Games when she claimed gold in the women's 52-kg category in Rio de Janeiro.

“I was hoping Distria would get a medal but the gold medal was really grandiose,” Krasniqi’s coach Driton Kuka told the KTV private television station. “Two gold medals in two Olympics is a great result in sport.”

Front pages of Kosovo media portals hailed her victory.

“Distria triumphs, Kosovo starts Games with a gold medal,” wrote Kosovapress; “Magnificent, Distria Krasniqi an Olympic champion,” wrote Koha Ditore.

After winning, Krasniqi was quoted by Kosovo’s public television RTK as saying: "This medal goes to my country, my family, to all those who supported me ... It has been a very difficult fight against the Japanese because Japan has the best judo in the world.”

President Vjosa Osmani congratulated the 25-year-old athlete.

“Through Distria today, Kosovo excelled to the world. Today and forever Kosovo will be proud of you,” Osmani wrote on Facebook.

Prime Minister Albin Kurti added: “Thank you for making each of us proud."

In neighboring Albania, Prime Minister Edi Rama also hailed Krasniqi’s victory, posting on Facebook: “Lioness. Bravo, Bravo, Bravo.” Her victory was also celebrated in the Albanian media.

The 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, then a Serbian province, ended after a NATO military intervention that forced Serbia to withdraw its forces. The United Nations ran the territory for nine years before Kosovo in 2008 declared independence, a move that Serbia doesn’t recognize. Kosovo has a population of 1.8 million.


Llazar Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.


Follow Llazar Semini at