It was a historic moment: for the first time in EJU history, a Cypriot reached an under-21 European Championship final. Giannis ANTONIOU, 18 years old and already number 5 in the junior world rankings. What may have come as a surprise to others is almost a matter of course for Giannis: “I love judo, can’t imagine ever turning my back on the judo world. Not even after my active career.”
How does a Cypriot get into Judo? “I started with Judo when I was seven, a year later I met Sviad TSOTSKOLAURI, a Georgian judo coach, in Cyprus. At that time I decided for myself. I want to become a professional judo player… and an Olympic champion.”
At 16, Giannis moved to Georgia and was taken in by Sviad Tsotskolauri at his home. Since then he has been training six days a week with the Georgian heavyweights. “I owe Sviad an incredible amount, I’m sure he watched all my fights on the livestream. He played a big part in the silver medal.”
The 18-year old is rarely in Cyprus anymore. “I fly there every three months for a few days to see my family. I miss them and I’m grateful that they fulfil my Judo dream. At the Junior European Championships in The Hague (NED), the Georgian by choice only had to admit defeat to Shalva Gureshidze (GEO) in the final. The defending champion celebrated his third victory in his third appearance this year. “Of course I am also satisfied with silver. It is my first medal at a European or World Championship.”
In a fortnight’ time, the newly-crowned under-21 European runner-up will make a foray into the seniors class. At the Grand Slam in Baku (AZE) he wants to collect points for the Olympic qualification. “Paris 2024 is my next big goal – I definitely want to make my Olympic debut.”
Giannis Antoniou is not thinking about the Junior World Championships in Odivelas (POR) in October for the time being. “But of course I want to deliver there as well.” But before that, he wants to go to Cyprus for a few days – to visit his family.
A side note: Sofia Asvesta (- 52) is also in the Cypriot line-up for Baku together with Giannis. The 23-year-old won the first (bronze) medal for Cyprus at a European Junior Championships in Porec (CRO) in 2020.
Author: EJU Media