The following is an interview with 2009 Judo World Champion and one of the most dynamic judoka in the world, Georgii Zantaraia, arranged by Niko Dax. Niko kindly let me ask a few questions, but first a highlight of Georgii:
Lex, â€œIn 2012 Olympics, Ukraine for the first time did not come away with a medal. Do you feel extra pressure on your shoulder leading up to the 2016 games?â€
Georgii, â€œ I would like to emphasize that Ukraine have strong players in all weight classes. Coaches would never bring anyone as a tourists . Judo is the most competitive sport in the world so everyone can win and get a medal. I canâ€™t think about Olympic Games in Rio 2016 since its so far from now and it would be so many tournaments before that. Usually our team for A level events consists of at least 16 players and everyone is elite judoka with chances to medal. But to answer your question I donâ€™t feel like Im special or coaches treat me differently from other teammates.
Lex, â€œIn the last 6 years, there have been more changes in judo rules than in all of the 50 years of its history in the Olympics. From what you saw in the world championships this year, do you think these changes have had an overall positive effect on the sport? For the athlete and for the spectators?â€
Georgii, â€œI can verify significant increase and growth of the judo as sport around the world. When I started competed on international level 7 years ago judo already was really big but now its truly top major sport in Europe. Most of this success is due to the rule changes and great IJF work. Judo become much more quicker and offensive. There is huge decrease in negative, defensive actions as its getting punished with penalties immediately. Matches are shorter and more dynamic and I can see way more big throws than it used to be before. So overall I think all those changes made a great positive affect. I think judo now is much more understandable for spectators because players forced to play upright game which leads to big terrific throws. Big terrific throws attracts people despite their familiarity with the game. Worse judo player has less chance to neutralize better judoka with defensive stalling strategy . I personally loves te guruma as it was one of my signature throws but I didnâ€™t have any trouble adjusting as overall positive effect outweight the loss of this technique. If you look at elite players who are competing at A level 4 years ago and now …they are still the same people. Its not like IJF changed the rules and bunch of players quit judo. It still the same people cuz leg grabs is just little portion of overall judo.
* Note from Niko â€œ We can see the players adjust kata gurumas , te gurumas and still able to perform variation of those techniques without leg grabâ€
Lex, â€œOn September 8, the IOC will decide on the fate of wrestling in the 2020 Olympics. Judo and wrestling are the only grappling sports in the Olympics. How important is it for wrestling to stay in the Olympics? Does judo run the danger of suffering the same fate?
Georgii, â€œI personally love wrestling as I think most of judo players do as well. Since wrestling was the original antic sport I think it must stay in Olympic Games program. Wrestling is significant part of grappling art and Olympic Games is key for sport growth and development. I donâ€™t think judo is in any danger of losing Olympic Games as I mentioned before judo is as big and popular as never before. There are some countries where judo is not mainstream but in majority of the countries judo is the most popular martial art. Millions of people are practicing judo around the world and its only getting bigger.â€
Note from Niko,â€Today we already know that wrestling is back. I think judo popularity depends on strong national organization . Good example is USA , due to the total lack of finance and tiny media exposure on the national televison judo popularity is very very low compare with european and asian countriesâ€
Lex, â€œRonda Rousey, an American judoka, is one of the most recognized judoka in the world because of her success in MMA. Have any of you considered a move to MMA in the future?
Georgii, â€œI love MMA and really would love to continue my career in MMA . However , I never got any offer so for now its just virtual possibility. I love competing and challenging my self so MMA always was very appealing to me. If some major organisations would approach me I would definitely consider their offer.â€œ