28 March 2024


Tbilisi Grand Slam 2024


It’s been a hot minute since we have seen Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI (ESP) standing on top of the podium. The -90kg double World Champion moved to the -100kg category following the Tokyo Olympic Games, but it hasn’t been an easy journey for the Spanish representative.

Moving category is one thing, coming in unseeded and dealing with the top players week in week out and struggling to get past the opening rounds is a tough adjustment. Then disaster struck with an injury which put Sherazadishvili out of commission for some months.

Finishing 2023 with a European Championships bronze medal was very satisfying for him, and laid the groundwork for better things to come, feeling the strength returning and much more at home on the tatami.

This year however, he has transformed and it feels like 2019 all over again. Already making it to two finals, the Portugal Grand Prix and Paris Grand Slam, it is evident that Sherazadishvili is back on top form, but he was yearning for the gold medal, which just so happened to come in front of friends and family, and fellow Georgian countrymen during the Tbilisi Grand Slam.

I’m so happy to be taking this medal in Tbilisi, in my country, my family and for myself. Actually, I won my first ever IJF World Tour medal here in 2016, when it was a Grand Prix. After this I never medalled, it was just too much pressure for me in my country and my family, it’s a privilege but just so much pressure. This year I felt comfortable to come, I was still so nervous, but I took my first gold in -100kg.

Georgia is known for the atmosphere, especially when supporting their Georgian athletes, but it was no different for Sherazadishvili, he may be wearing the Spanish flag on his chest but they know his heritage, there were even children in the crowd wearing judogi with Spanish colours to support him!

They motivated me to get a better result, they cheer for me like I’m on their national team, I mean I am Georgian, but my nationality is not. It was so important for me to take this gold though, I have been in four finals in the -100kg category and four silver medals, but as well as the gold medal, these points mean that I’m in the top eight in the ranking and for me this is even more important. It’s a good feeling for me to be so consistent, if I’m having a good or bad day, I am making it to the final and this is the consistency I want.

Tbilisi Grand Slam 2024 © Tamara Kulumbegashvili

Moving from the -90kg category posed various new challenges, one of which was losing his height advantage, and as an uchi mata specialist with a deep grip on the belt, this has delivered difficulties,

I prefer to be on the attack and not defending this technique! In the final, Elnahas also likes this grip on the belt, normally in -90kg I don’t usually have this problem!

There were many memorable moments during the Tbilisi Grand Slam, two of which involved Georgian legends, asking how Sherazadishvili felt about their retirement, he had lovely words for both,

For me, it was so emotional, both Varlam Liparteliani and Avtandil Tchrikishvili, they are so close to me but I want to say to him, I wish you good energy, sport might be finished but you have so many more things to do… and now help me!!! [he laughs] He told me now he will show me all of his secrets, before when he fought in -100kg, he wouldn’t tell me but now he will come to Spain and tell me the secret for the Olympic medal. We aren’t just close but we are family, I am the godfather of his third son.

European Games 2015; Varlam LIPARTELIANI and Nikoloz SHERAZADISHVILI © EJU


Author: Thea Cowen