Kosovo now has its own National Training Center

Kosovo's National Training Center

By Nicolas Messner

Kosovo saw the opening of its National Judo Training Center late last month, in a ceremony attended by IJF President Marius Vizer, the President of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani, the Prime Minister Albin Kurti, the President of Kosov’s National Olympic Council, Ismet Krasniqi and the Minister of Youth and Sport Hajrulla Ceku.

“Over the years, Kosovo has become a model of both sporting and educational development,” Vizer said. “The results achieved by national athletes are the fruit of the daily work of enthusiasts of judo and sports, which from the start had the unwavering support of the country’s authorities. Olympic gold is a dream for many athletes. You have already achieved it three times, without mentioning the world medals. Congratulations! This training centre will be one more tool for development and performance available to Kosovan judoka and the country as a whole.”

The center is located on Marius Vizer Street, named in tribute to the unwavering support of the IJF President.

The rise of Kosovo as a strong judo nation began with Majlinda Kelmendi, the first Olympic champion in the history of Kosovo, across all sports. It was in 2016 in Rio. This summer, two new athletes have added their names to the pantheon of international judo, as Distria Krasniqi and Nora Gjakova won gold in their respective categories of -48kg and -57kg at the Tokyo Games.

This exceptional feat is the fruit of the hard work carried out for years by the Judo Federation of Kosovo, led by Agron Kuka, whose brother Driton Kuka, is the head coach of the national team. Both were also present at the inauguration of the training center.

“At first I had to act as a coach, psychologist, physiotherapist,” said Driton Kuka. “We didn’t have what it takes for top level sport, with a hall with a leaky roof and bad mats. The situation has changed, thanks to the support of the International Judo Federation and the country’s authorities. Judoka will now be able to train in a light venue, on beautiful red and gold tatami.”