Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi gets statue in her hometown

Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi, the first athlete from Kosovo to win a gold medal at the games, now has a statue in her hometown.

Hundreds of people withstood Friday’s rain to gather in Peja, a city 85 kilometers (50 miles) west of Prishtina, for the unveiling of the bronze statue.

The 28-year-old Kelmendi is a Kosovar judoka who competes in the 52-kilogram category. In 2016, she was the first Kosovar athlete to win a medal at the Olympics, taking gold. She is also a two-time world champion and two-time European champion.

“I strongly believe that the statue will motivate children in Kosovo to achieve successes in life like me,” Kelmendi said.

The statue shows Kelmendi in a judogi uniform and ready to fight. It cost about 200,000 euros (about $220,000), funded from the local federation. It was done by New York-based U.S. Statues for Equality artistic duo Gillie and Marc.

International Judo Federation president Marius Viser was present at the ceremony honoring Kelmendi, who was named Kosovo's athlete of the year for three straight years from 2017-19.

An emotional Kelmendi, wearing a pink suit, thanked everyone who attended, adding that the statue was best suited for her home city “where I have grown up and have launched my career.”

Kosovo has made a reputation for itself in judo, winning titles around the world.

“I think the result of 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.”