Kosovo and Taiwan Win First Gold Medals in Rio
The first few days of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have seen the first gold medal ever for Kosovo. The Balkan country, at its first participation ever in the Olympics, saw its judo star Majlinda Kelmendi, who also carried the country’s flag at the opening ceremony, win the gold medal for the women’s 52kg category. This is a very important moment for the country and, as Majlinda Kelmendi herself stated, yet another way to show the world “that Kosovo is not just a country that has gone through war”. Similarly, in just a few days Taiwan has already won a gold medal in weightlifting with Hsu Shu-Ching and a bronze thanks to its the female archery team. Although these are not the first medals ever for the island state, they are still remarkable achievements for the athletes and the international reputation of the country. The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) congratulates Taiwan and Kosovo, its members, on the occasion of this important success.
Gold medalist Majlinda Kelmendi wipes away a tear during the medal ceremony.
The woman who won Kosovo's first ever Olympic medal hopes the golden honour sends a message to young survivors of war that "they can do anything they want".
Rio is Kosovo's maiden Games, and judo star Majlinda Kelmendi claimed the historic win, beating Italy's Odette Giuffrida by yuko in the women's 52kg final.
Kelmendi, 25, sank to her knees in tears after the event, and then ran to hug a small group of supporters chanting "Kosovo, Kosovo!"
"I have always wanted to show the world that Kosovo is not just a country that has gone through war," Kelmendi said, with her nation's flag draped around her shoulders.
Kelmendi said she hoped to inspire Kosovo's younger generation, who she said "look to me as a hero".
"I just proved to them that even after we survived a war, if they want something they can have it," she said.
"If they want to be Olympic champions, they can be. Even if we come from a small country, a poor country.
"I just want to say to the young generation of Kosovo that they can do anything they want."
In 2008 Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia — whose forces fought to stop breakaway rebels in 1998–99 — and has since had its own scrap for recognition.
Every sign of statedom counts, and Kelmendi faced so much spotlight in the months before the Games that she went into hiding with her coach to train.
She emerged to show her pride carrying the Kosovo flag at the Olympic opening ceremony.
"This medal means a lot, not only for Kosovo's sport, but for all Kosovo as a country," she said after the win.
"We have survived a war. There are still kids who don't know if their parents are alive, don't have anything to eat or books to go to school.
"So the fact of becoming Olympic champion is just huge for all of us."
About 100 countries have given their diplomatic stamp to Kosovo, which has been recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for less than two years.
IOC president Thomas Bach presented Kelmendi with the gold.
"I had so many things going on on my mind when I was on the podium. Then came Mr Thomas Bach," Kelmendi said.
"A year ago, he came to Kosovo and said: 'I'm here to support you and I want to see you win in Rio.'
"Today he said: 'You remember that you had a dream; now you've realised it.' It made me very proud."
Kelmendi took control of the final from the start, pinning the 21-year-old Giuffrida quickly to score her single point yuko.
Highlighting her reputation for nerves of steel, Kelmendi never gave up her slight advantage.
"Everyone in Kosovo has watched my combats and expected to see me win. That is why I was so motivated," she said.
Japan's Misato Nakamura and Russia's Natalia Kuziutina won the bronze medals.
Kelmendi fought for Albania at the 2012 London Games, before Kosovo had its IOC badge, and went out in the second round.
She has won two world titles since, however — including one in Rio in 2013 — and that made her the favourite going into the final.
Hsu Shu-ching (許淑淨) and three women archers put Taiwan on the medal table in Rio Sunday with a gold medal in weightlifting and a bronze in archery women's team competition.
Hsu, 25, won Taiwan's first gold medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics by lifting a total of 212 kilograms in women's 53-kg group.
The graduate student at Kaohsiung Medical University lifted 100kg in the snatch and 112 kg in the clean and jerk competition.
The women archers -- Tan Ya-ting (譚雅婷), Le Chien-ying (雷千瑩) and Lin Shih-chia (林詩嘉) -- beat their Italian opponents to win women's team bronze medal match. It is Taiwan's first Olympic archery medal after winning a men's team silver and a women's team bronze in the Athens Games in 2004.
In addition to Sunday's victory, Hsu will likely get another Olympic gold medal as she is expected to be promoted from the second place in the London Games four years ago after the gold medalist -- Zulfiya Chinshanlo of Kazakhstan -- tested positive for performance enhancing drugs just before the Rio Olympics.
In Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) thanked the athletes for giving their best, said Presidential Office Spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺).
The president believes every citizen of Taiwan is feeling proud of the the performance of the medalists, Huang said.