Road to Rio: Georgii Zantaraia, Flight: UKR2014 - BR2016

This week we have Ukrain's judo star, Georgii Zantaraia shares his judo story on his way to the 2016 Olympic. The Georgian born judoka will have his second chance to add an Olympic medal to his collection in the next Mega-Event.
The 2011 European champion, Georgii Zantaraia started judo in Ukraine, in 1997. "My parents had to move out of Georgia because there was a war at the time and so they moved to Ukraine. I started judo there at my school. There wasn't any other sports to do in my school, only judo. That is how I took up judo." - he remembers. Georgii is famous of his gymnastic movements on the mat so the question had to be asked, when did you do gymnastic? He laughs and says: "I have never done gymnastic in my whole life, in fact I have never done any other sports apart of judo." At the time of the Athens Olympic Games, he realised that he had a hidden dream which was to became and Olympic Champion. Therefore, Georgii decided to go ahead with the 2008 Olympic qualification to book his spot in the Beijing Games. "In 2006, I started the qualification and I remember my first tournament in Paris. I lost...and I immediately asked myself 'what do I want from an Olympic Games when I can not even win a medal at the qualification?'. A week later I won Bronze in Austria, which followed up with many more medals." - explains the double world bronze medalist. This is not it. He continues: "At the last qualification event in Prague, I fought against another Ukrainian boy for bronze and I lost, which meant there will not be any Olympic Games for me, or at least not in 2008." What happened then? GZ: "I was crying and crying, eventually I picked myself up." The world champion judoka managed to put the past behind and four years later he became one of the favourite judoka to watch at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Won several medals throughout the qualification however, he has returned home with empty hands from the English capital. "Oh, I could not believe it myself. After all the trainings I have done.. I was upset myself and I thought I finished judo. I think at the Olympics you need to have strong preparation but you also need some sort of luck. I definitely haven't had the second part... Thanks to my coach, he said we changing weight category and fight in the U66 and take an Olympic medal in four year’s time. First time, I did not want to change, I wanted to stay in the U60. But he was right and I quickly adapt to the new weight category and now nothing can stop me of getting an Olympic medal to my collection." Georgii, who favours Japanese style of judo and likes to go fishing as well as travelling to his birth country when and if he has time to switch off. But what is more important than that, he likes to make sure he gets his sleep. However, there was more that just training and sleeping regime to deal with before the 2012 Games. "My baby was born a year before the 2012 Games and then it was more family time than Olympic time to be honest. I mean, I was fully training and did all the commitment required, however I think I won a family that time not the Olympics." - explains Georgii. So, planning to have more babies? "Oh, yes. I want many many kids" - he adds. How do you cope with your career and the family life than? "I don't actually. I am lucky, because my wife deals with it all and my parents and her parents are extremely supportive." - explains the 2014 Paris GS silver medallist. This year's major plans? GZ: "European and World Championships." You mean medal at both events? GZ: "OH, no medals. Only Gold!" - he smiles, while he adds: "To be honest my main focus is the to winning an Olympic Medal in Rio. I have European gold, World gold but I don't have an Olympic medal. I want to win an Olympic medal...aaaand... (he whispers) I will win an Olympic medal." So what needs to be done in order to win that precious medal? "I think changes are important, as far as they are correct changes. We will definitely do things slightly differently from the last experience. I believe in my coach 100% and I know he will make sure that I have the best preparation in order to achieve my goal." Any comments on the new rules? Georgii: "It does not affect me much so I can not really say much. I think we all have ups and downs with the changes but luckily nothing major for me. The new weight-in system also suits me so I really can not complain." And for last, the three wishes of our judo hero: "I have everything in life and my life is judo. I want my surname in the judo history and I want nothing more than an Olympic medal and that would make up for more than three wishes."



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