Kosovo's first Olympic medal winner, making comeback from back injury, quit final of 52kg at Mubadala Arena
Double joy for Georgia but frustrating comeback for Majlinda Kelmendi at Abu Dhabi Slam
Majlinda Kelmendi suffered another injury setback to her career when she was forced to retire with a bleeding nose at the IJF Abu Dhabi Grand Slam on Saturday.
Kelmendi, who was making a comeback after being laid low by a back problem for more than a year, had to quit the final of the 52-kilogram category at the Mubadala Arena. The nosebleed was due to a blow she had received from an accidental headbutt in the third round of the competition.
She started the final with a heavily-bandaged face, but the fight had to be stopped after just 45 seconds.
Odette Giuffrida, who Kelmendi had beaten in the final of the 2016 Summer Games at Rio de Janeiro to become Kosovo's first Olympic medal winner, was awarded the win.
Kelmendi took the latest setback in her stride.
“It was accidental and very unfortunate, but these things are not uncommon in judo,” she said. “I reached the final after returning to competition in more than a year, and that was important for me."
The 27-year-old judoka, who was to compete in the Tashkent Grand Prix on November 9 and The Hague Grand Prix a week later, will now tread with caution.
"I have to get the advice from my medical team before I decide my next competition,” she said, although she does not think the injury looks serious.
Meanwhile, Urantsetseg Munkhbat claimed gold in the women’s 48kg after defeating world junior champion Distria Krasniqi, also of Kosovo.
The world No 3 from Mongolia was obviously thrilled about the result.
“Grands Prix are always tough," said Munkhbat, herself a five-time Grand Prix winner. "The final was difficult, too. I hope I can take this momentum forward to Tashkent in two weeks and the Osaka Grand Slam on November 23.”
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The Argentine Paula Pareto, bronze medallist at the Rio Games, had to settle for another third-place finish after defeating Milica Nikolic of Serbia.
“I was a bit low in power as I’m here after back-to-back events, and it showed on me today,” Pareto said.
One Kosovar who did win gold on Saturday was Nora Gjakova, who beat Russia's Anastasiia Konkina in the 57kg final.
In the men’s draw, the Georgian pair of Amiran Papinashvili and Vazha Margvelashvili grabbed the two gold medals up for grabs.
Papinashvili outclassed Francisco Garrigos of Spain in the 60kg final, and Margvelashvili overcame Kazakhstan's Yerlan Serikzhanov in the 66kg.
But it was disappointing day for Emirati judokas Ahmed Al Naqbi (men's 60kg), Ahmed Al Hosani (men's 66kg) and Maitha Al Neyadi (women's 57kg), all of who made first-round exits.
Five finals are scheduled on Sunday.