PEJA, Kosovo (AP) — Majlinda Kelmendi, the first athlete from Kosovo to win an Olympic Games gold medal, unveiled a statue of herself in her hometown on Friday.
Kelmendi is a judoka. She won the 52-kilograms division at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. She’s also a two-time world champion and two-time European champion.
Hundreds of people, including International Judo Federation president Marius Viser, endured the rain to gather in Peja, 85 kilometers (50 miles) west of Pristina, to see the bronze statue of Kelmendi in a judogi preparing to fight.
“I strongly believe that the statue will motivate children in Kosovo to achieve successes in life like me,” the 28-year-old Kelmendi said.
She has been chosen Kosovo athlete of the year for the last three years.
“Majlinda is the best inspiration for all the Kosovo sport, for the nation,” Viser said, “and you can be proud that one of the best representatives of the sport in the world is the flag carrier of your nation.”
The IJF also honored the occasion on its website: “Normally, statues are made to pay tribute to those who have passed. Having one erected during one’s life is an exceptional honour reserved for very few. Majlinda Kelmendi is one of those exceptions.”
The statue cost the national federation about 200,000 euros ($220,000), and was made by New York-based U.S. Statues for Equality artistic duo Gillie and Marc.
Semini reported from Tirana, Albania.
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