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Judo Day 2 preview: Majlinda Kelmendi eyes Olympic history

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It's been years in the making, but on Sunday, Majlinda Kelmendi will finally be able to represent her homeland.

That's because Kelmendi is from Kosovo, a region which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has struggled to gain international recognition as an independent nation ever since. For the first time, Kosovo is participating in the Olympics, having been formally recognized by the IOC.

While the contingent is small – just eight athletes will represent Kosovo in Rio – their hopes of attaining a medal are not. Kelmendi, a two-time world champion, is the No. 2 seed in the women's 52kg division and will be one of the top medal favorites in Sunday's tournament. In the last two years, she has only lost one match.

This won't be Kelmendi's first Olympics – she competed for neighboring Albania in 2012. In fact, competing for Kosovo has been an on again/off again situation. When she won her first world title in 2013, she was allowed to compete for Kosovo, which had been officially recognized by the International Judo Federation a year earlier. But the very next year, when the world championships were held in Russia – a country allied with Serbia – she wasn't able to represent the Balkan nation because Russia doesn't recognize its independence.

The place where she won that first world title? Rio de Janerio, Brazil.

On Friday night, vindication finally arrived when Kelmendi carried Kosovo's flag into the Opening Ceremony. Now she will attempt to become her country's first medalist – and possibly its first gold medalist – ever at the Olympics.

Here's what else to know for Day 2 of competition.

Schedule and live stream links

Prelims (9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET): Mat 1 | Mat 2

Finals (2:30 p.m. – 5:10 p.m. ET): Medal Matches

The first block will feature preliminary and quarterfinal matches, and will take place on two separate mats, each with a dedicated live stream.

The final block will feature repechage matches, semifinals, Bronze Medal Matches and Gold Medal Matches.

Men's 66kg

Top seeds:

  • 1. An Baul (KOR)

  • 2. Tumurkhuleg Davaadorj (MGL)

  • 3. Mikhail Pulyaev (RUS)

  • 4. Georgii Zantaraia (UKR)

Full bracket

Women's 52kg

Top seeds:

  • 1. Andreea Chitu (ROU)

  • 2. Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS)

  • 3. Misato Nakamura (JPN)

  • 4. Erika Miranda (BRA)

Also notable: Team USA judoka Angelica Delgado (world ranking No. 25) will face Mongolia's Tsolmon Adiyasambuu (world ranking No. 16) in the first round. Should she advance, No. 3 seed Misato Nakamura (JPN) would await in Round 2.

Full bracket

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