24 March 2024


Tbilisi Grand Slam 2024


In 2006, the U17 ‘Olympic Hopes’ event was held in Jicin, Czechia. Among the host of medallists who became future superstars, including KARAKAS Hedwig (HUN), Lukas KRPALEK (CZE), Zebeda REKHVIASHVILI (GEO) and Loic PIETRI (FRA), was an -81kg Varlam LIPARTELIANI of Georgia.

Fast forward 18 years and the captain of the Georgian team is bowing out, announcing his retirement from competitive judo. It isn’t a case of losing his edge, the 35 year-old dominated in the Tashkent Grand Slam last year and took silver in Ulaanbaatar, it is simply ‘time’.

I am very happy but also very sad, I have had a long career and been in judo for such a long time. It is difficult to wake up one day and realise that is has come to an end.  It is such an emotional moment, and already I can feel myself missing the tatami, but everything comes to an end, and I’m 35 years old now. We have a really great new generation, top athletes and I want to say that I can go home and still Georgia has the top chance. 

Liparteliani has his own personal achievements to be proud of, on the European, World and Olympic stage, undoubtedly drawing in hundreds of children to the incredible sport and setting an example for how a real judoka should be. The Olympic silver medallist hasn’t only garnered fans through his judo style, but his popularity goes beyond that, becoming a favourite among athletes as well for his attitude and kind nature and leaves behind a legacy greater than his accolades.

First I want to stay with my family and take some time out but I can say that I will stay in judo, it is my life, it is everything to me. I am now nervous actually because I don’t have something to think about, some competition, some goal, but I know I am so ready, it is not early or late, just the perfect time. 

With former team mate and current national coach, Lasha GUJEJIANI. © Emanuel Di Feliciantonio

Regarding his accomplishments, one is not more important than the other for Liparteliani,

Everything. Every single one of my medals means something to me and each one is a part of history so I don’t want to say one is more important than the other, each one was perfect and beautiful in that moment and in my career. When I was the team captain, I was so proud and I was very lucky because we had a good team, Olympic, World and European Champions, and we won the World Championship team event twice, many times the European title and it just made me so proud. 

One of the athletes who has shared the competition tatami with Liparteliani, not only in -90kg but also in -100kg, was Aleksandar KUKOLJ (SRB), who had nothing but great things to say about his opponent. Evidence of their great rapport can be seen in their Throw Challenge, and after the medal ceremony of the 2021 World Championships, Liparteliani jokingly told – in earshot – that he let Kukolj win so that he would qualify for the Tokyo Games.

Varlam has one of the best fight IQs in judo that I have ever seen, it was an honour to share the mat with him.

During his ceremony in the Tbilisi Grand Slam, Liparteliani delivered some emotional words,

Thank all of my supporters, in all of my moments, not only in winning but also during my loss. Thank you for Shota Khabareli, my team, our team coaches and my personal coach, Guram Modebadze. A special thank you to Giorgi Chanishvili, the Georgian voice of judo who has announced me too many times!

Now, to my family, to my mother, sisters. I’d like to give a personal thank you to my wife, Giuli, she was always with me, all in my big and difficult moments. Of course, thank you to my three boys. I want to finish by saying that judo isn’t just sport for me, it was a way to improve myself and my life, and to make a greater Georgia. 

Liparteliani then directed his attention to the IJF,

To all referees, to all commissions, to everyone you have this life a beautiful one for me and I want to give a special thanks to Neil Adams and Sheldon, all such great people, thank you. 

Madloba Liparteliani!

Peace out Lipo! © Carlos Ferreira


Author: Thea Cowen