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Georgian Olympic champion David Khakhaleishvili fighting for his life

11 Dec 2019 16:10

 Andy Wheeler and JudoInside    David Finch / Judophotos.com
19930429 GOLD Khakhaleichvili GEO Open & +95kgs

David Khakhaleishvili 1992 Olympic champion has a serious health problem and needs heart transplantation. Family and relatives published an account on which they beg every Georgian to help them in order to save David's life. Khakhaleishvili was one of the greats in Georgian judo. With this week’s news about Russian athletes having to fight under a neutral banner at next years Tokyo Olympics, it harkens back to 1992 and the Barcelona Games.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union the year before, the former Soviet Republics entered a team under the CIS banner and Georgias David Khakhaleishvili, took the Gold Medal for this team at +98kg aged just 21. At those same games, a young Frenchman called David Douillet, was coming to prominence and took the Bronze medal at the same weight.

Fast forward four years to the Atlanta Olympics, where the heavyweight division, was shaping up to be a real clash of the titans, between darling of French fans and media David Douilet and reigning Olympic Champion at that weight, Georgian David Khakhaleishvili.

In the intervening years, Douilet went on to win four World Championship Gold medals, 1993 in Hamilton Canada, 1995 in Chiba Japan, where he took his own category and the Open weight division and in 1997 in his home capital Paris.

On the day of the competition in 1996, Saturday arrived at the athletes village, next to where the competition was taking place. Weigh in time approached and there was no sign of the Georgian. People started weighing in and still the Georgian coach and player were not in attendance. The cut-off for the mandatory weigh-ins came and went and David Khakhaleishvili was disqualified on the spot, for failing to weigh in for the days proceedings.

David and his coach had traveled to the Georgian World Congress Centre across the city for weigh in’s, instead of the World Congress Centre, where the competition was taking place, an innocent mistake but one he would rue for the rest of his life.

By the time they realised their blunder, it was too late, they had busy a city to cross, the streets were clogged with traffic, overcrowded with people attending the Olympic Games.

They pleaded to the then President of the International Judo Federation, Yong Sung Park, for clemency in this matter, his response was curt, "It's a very simple thing. If a fighter wants to fight, he has to come to the weigh-in at the right time. Of 65 fighters, everybody showed up but him."

Douillet when first told of the incident laughed, "How can an Olympic champion do that?" he asked. "It's a beginner's mistake, a child's mistake not to be there when it's time to weigh in."

Later after storming to Gold, the Frenchman was more contemplative, "Of course I was disappointed, there was somebody missing at the party. Maybe the Olympic final would have been different. When you are a competitor, you like competition, you want everybody to be there."

SUPPORT Khakhaleishvili

Now it’s up to the judo world to pay back David Khakhaleishvili. Support him in his fight for life.

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