1 September 2023



Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus, is an island country located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Although geographically it is in West Asia, culturally and geopolitically Southeast European. It has an area of 9,251 square km.  Cyprus is the third largest and third-most populous island in the Mediterranean. Nicosia is the capital whilst Greek and Turkish are considered official languages. Cyprus has a population of 1.244 million (2021) and natives or inhabitants of this region are called Cypriot. In 1978 a joint federation was established for judo alongside Karate and Taekwondo. 

1980 – The beginning of time

For the newly established organisation, 1980 kickstarted with the XXII Olympiad which was held in Moscow and Team Cyprus had five judoka representing the island. 

Papapcostas had the privilege to be the flag bearer of the country. It was a fairly quiet next four years before they were able to showcase their talents once again. The 1984 summer games, hosted by Los Angeles, saw two judoka for Cyprus. 

The team needed to wait until the next Olympic Games to wave the Cyprus flag once again. Soul 1988 allowed the following judoka to experience the biggest show on earth. 

The Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) is a multisport event which first took place in 1985 and its held every two years since. However, it was not until 1989 when the team won their first gold medal at such, for the country, prestigious event. What made it even more special is that both gold medallists judoka, Katsiniorides CHRISTODOULOS (-78kg) and Elias Ioannou (-65kg) were able to deliver this unforgettable historical moment on home grounds. 

L-R: 1992 Barcelona Olympic duet, Katsiniorides CHRISTODOULOS and Elias IOANNOU. © National Judo Federation of Cyprus

1990 – Breaking silence 

Technically, the breakthrough happened during the 1989 GSSE, however, from that moment onwards, the Cyprus judo team made it their duty to ensure there is a gold medal landed on the island from almost every games. Spyros Spyrou hailed glory in 1991 with Christodoulides CHRISTODOULOS delivering the hat-trick of the decade with back-to-back victories in 1995, 1997 and 1999. The ’90s also included yet another Olympic duo with Elias Ioannou (-65kg) and Katsiniorides Christodoulos (-78kg), who partake at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. 

2000 – Step by step…

The robust work and constant development in performance continued as we approached the 21st century, which for the Cyprus team revived with a double glory from the 2001 GSSE, where Christodoulides Christodoulos simply continued his golden collection and was joined by Theodoros MANDRIDES. Two years later the number of victories almost tripled as the team returned from Malta with yet the best results of all times, at least up to that moment… The winning quintet were Christodoulides Christodoulos, Theodoros MANDRIDES, Constantinos Kouyialis, Marios ANDREOU and Despoina PANAYIOTOU.

After a few cycle of absence from the summer games, Cyprus was able to return to the Olympic stage in 2004. This marks yet another significant achievement as it was the first time Cyprus was able to have a judoka at the Olympics following a restricted qualification system put in place by the International Judo Federation prior to the 1996 Olympic Games. Athens 2004 shepherd some hope back to the island by no other than Christodoulides Christodoulos himself.  

For the rest of the decade, the team continued their success strike at the GSSE with double glow from 2005 (Theodoros Mandrides and Angeli CHARALAMBOS) and single triumphs from 2007 (Angeli Charalambos) and 2009 (Neoklis SKOUROUMOUNIS). During this era, Andreas KRASSAS also claimed top spot on the EJU junior ranking -60kg in 2009.

2010 – Time for independence

The Cyprus judo team continued to deliver first place performances from several GSSE with Andreas KRASSAS (2011, 2015), Irodotos KELPIS (2013), George BALARJISHVILI (2019) and Sofia ASVESTA (2019).

However, the most significant achievement of their judo family was not weighed in medals but rather in an official procedure. In 2015, the judo family of Cyprus was able to form an individual federation on its own and continue their work as the National Judo Federation of Cyprus. Within the same year, the first cadet European medal was established by Vasiliki KOURRI in the -40kg category.

2020 – A new era with majors

Sofia ASVESTA opened a new chapter in history books when winning bronze at the junior Europeans in 2020. She went onto writing more memoire when landing for bronze at the European Open in Zagreb in 2021 which was the first ever medal at such a level for a Cypriot female judoka. 

The success in changes sustained as 2022 marked the first ever gold medal for the Cyprus judo family at the prestigious Commonwealth Games. Although in 2002, C. Christodoulides was a step away and settled with silver, 20 years later, Georgios BALARJISHVILI excelled for gold in the -66kg category. Meanwhile, Petros CHRISTODOULIDES won silver at the ISF Gymnasiada tournament which is the largest international multi-sport and educational event for school students aged 16-18 years old. 

Premier winnings continued in 2022 when the first Small States European Judo Championships took place in Luxembourg. The event secured a spotlight amongst the cadets and senior age group and Cyprus judo took over the medal table at both, winning a total of 10 gold medals across. As per the mixed team event, the host nation settled the islanders for silver which yet considered a headline of its own. 

If 2022 thought to be a good year for the organisation, their wildest dreams become a reality this year. The team won seven gold medals at the 2023 GSSE, the highest number ever, not to mention the heavy overall tally they returned with which was topped with conquest at the mixed team event. Not long prior to this enormous medal haul, Cyprus’s first ever IJF World Tour medal was delivered by Petros Christodoulides who won bronze at the Upper Austria Grand Prix in May.

The cherry on the top? The 2023 World Judo Championships in Doha welcomed five qualified Cypriot judoka. The largest team Cyprus judo ever had at such a prestigious event, surpassing some of the long-succeeding national federations. Today, there are 26 judo clubs and an estimated 3000 judoka on the island. 

Petros Christodoulides won the first ever IJF World Tour medal for Cyprus this year. © IJF

Finally, still within the foreseeable future, a vigorous climb on the world ranking remains the target with aims to fetch a spot or two at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Cyprus judo’s long-term plans include organising EJU events locally. As per next week’s goal, five members of the team will compete at the junior European Judo Championships 2023 in The Hague. Amongst them, well established Petros Christodoulides will be entering the field of play. Could it be the time for yet another mighty moment in celebration of a junior European title?

Off the mat… Did you know? 

Author: Szandra Szogedi