"My gold medal will help others in this sport and interest more people in judo"

World champion Nikolov Sherazadishvili with his gold medal, during the interview in Madrid.
World champion Nikolov Sherazadishvili with his gold medal, during the interview in Madrid. / A.FERRERAS
  • Nikolov Sherazadishvili, the first Spanish world judo champion now has his sights set on the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020

He is only 22, but he has just become the first Spanish world champion in men's judo. Nikolov Sherazadishvili's parents decided to emigrate from Georgia to Spain in 2010, and he had to wait four years to obtain Spanish nationality. His father died a year ago, and it was to him that Nikolov dedicated the gold medal he won a month ago in Baku, Azerbaijan. He now wants to combine his sport with studying Marketing at Murcia university (UCAM), but while he is waiting to start he is working on launching a line of organic cotton clothing. Nevertheless, nothing will deter him from training for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Why did you decide to take Spanish nationality?

My parents decided to move to Madrid when I was 13. They wanted a better future for us; they were thinking of my brother and me. He used to play football but he injured his ankle. They operated, but he hasn't recovered very well and here I am with judo, following in my father's footsteps. It was destiny, and I'm proud to be where I am.

You were offered a lot of money to take Turkish nationality.

Yes. Some countries are very advanced in that way. If they see that people in sport have a promising future they usually offer them a contract for four or eight years, depending on their age, and offer them a lot of money to take citizenship. They wanted me to do that after the Olympics in Rio (2016) and until Tokyo. I think I made the right decision, the most honest one.

Why did you choose Quino Ruiz's club (world silver medallist 2001) in Brunete?

When I arrived in Madrid a friend of my father asked about clubs to find out which was the best. They told us about another club, where you trained for two hours a week, but that didn't seem enough to me. I looked for a gym where I could train every day instead. Then after a year I went to the High Performance Centre, and met someone else who did judo, and he introduced me to Quino. I asked if they trained there every single day, and he said "Yes, two hours every day". So I went, and it wasn't just a case of training every day of the week; we didn't even get any holiday.

So it's a way of ensuring that people are really dedicated.

It would be really difficult if you weren't. I believe it would be impossible. I love competing, but unless you work at this every day you wouldn't achieve good results.

-Quino must be more than just a trainer to you.

He is. That's why his club has so many promising youngsters and is such high quality, because anyone who treads on the tatami at the club is like part of the family. I say he's like another father to me, and I'm like his son. It's a type of family relationship, not just sporting and professional.

What did he say to you before the final?

I was very, very focused on the competition. There was no time to feel nervous. In the corridor, before going on, we were talking and he said "You're one step away from making history". And then he left, because he was very nervous, but then he came back and said it again. He was more nervous than I was, because I was just concentrating on the final and I didn't want to think about anything else.

Do you do better in competitions if you're calm?

Yes. That's what people say, that they don't notice that I'm nervous. Obviously I am, but I try not to let it show.

What was it like preparing to be world champion? No parties? No holidays?

Exactly, and a strict diet and hard training.

Did you ever dream of being world champion at such a young age?

I used to dream of being world champion, but never thought it would happen so young. It all happened very quickly and I'm very happy to have achieved it at this age. Now I have to work hard to carry on, and stay there.

What will be the most difficult thing now? Staying at the top?

I think that's always much more difficult than getting there. That's hard enough, but now people are going to want to beat me, they'll be studying me more and I have to accept that pressure and see it as something positive.

To deal with that pressure, do you need to work psychologically?

The mind is the most important thing. You need a strong head to overcome the obstacles, although you shouldn't see them as obstacles but as something positive, because you are number one and you have to live up to that.

A gold medal in Tokyo is practically yours, isn't it?

People have said I should expect nothing less, but we know how difficult things are in sport. It is very hard to always be the number one, but my objective and my dream is a gold medal in Tokyo, of course.

Alejandro Blanco, the president of the COE, is a seventh Dan in judo (Shara is third Dan); has he said anything about your medal chances in Tokyo?

He hasn't said anything about me winning, but he's very pleased because he has seen me grow and has been watching me since I was young, so he's especially interested. He said he cried when I won the world championship. It was a long time since he had ever cried, but he did then.

I'm sure your mother and twin brother also cried.

They were there. When I won, Quino burst into tears and in the stands Spanish and Georgian supporters were hugging each other. I think everyone in the pavilion was hugging someone. I told myself I wasn't going to cry because I didn't want to set my family off, but when Quino started they all joined in. I try not to cry. I prefer to smile if I can.

What does your gold medal mean for judo?

It is really, really important for judo. It will motivate youngsters and my team, the people who have been with me for a long time. It will also interest other people, including those who don't follow judo normally. Children and everybody else will see that if I can do it, they can too.

Will it help to relaunch judo, with help from institutions and extra publicity?

It will give something extra to this sport. It'll make up a bit for all the journeys we haven't been able to make or for those who didn't have enough money to travel all over the world. The sponsorships will help because they will mean we can travel more. Everyone can use this money to get better results.

Are you already thinking about the Olympic Games?

Now I'm moving on to the ADO Plan and the dream of Tokyo never leaves my head, even when I'm on holiday in Georgia. My brain is thinking all the time about winning a medal. I don't like to talk about what I'm going to do, but I'm going to give the very best of myself in order to obtain the best result.