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Interviewing an Olympic champion is something special and always delivers thought-provoking words and ideas; it’s a unique kind of education. Following the stories of the first 27 Olympic champions in the series, winners from 1976 to 2021, we now share the words of Lasha Shavdatuashvili, Olympic champion in London in 2012 in the -66 kg category.

We introduced the statistics, the almost impossible feat and the question in our first article in the series, which can be found here:

A reminder of the question:

It could be said that to be in the company of an Olympic judo champion is to be presented with someone whom has reached an absolute pinnacle, a ceiling which cannot be surpassed; there is nowhere further to ascend in the world of sport. We often find Olympic champions speaking with freedom and certainty, unafraid to share an opinion, speaking of their lives and paths with confidence. For many we feel there is peace, and that can be magnetic and inspiring.

So the question is, did they become Olympic champion because of that character or did they become that person having won the Olympic gold medal?

“For any athlete competing in Olympic sport, it is the dream title to hold, to be Olympic champion. I was young when I became Olympic champion. For 90% of athletes it’s the top level of being an athlete, excluding not-Olympic sports, of course. It’s what we aim at but for me it was the beginning and not the end. So many stop growing up, in the sense of developing themselves for excellence, after the Olympic gold because the dream came true. Sport is the biggest part of my life and I didn’t want it to be stopped so fast, so early."

London 2012.

"For me, this was important, that I didn’t want the process to control me and my whole career, I wanted to control the process. When an athlete is winning a gold he is still continuing to plan the next steps; perhaps that is a change of direction or maybe to continue towards a new sporting goal. But it’s impossible to do the same things all over again; you must do things differently and even more so do 20 reps when coach says 10, even if coach says it’s not necessary. I have to always evolve."

London 2012.

"People ask if it’s hard to live like this but it’s part of my life, through everyday, doing more than I did yesterday. I’ve competing for a long time and had a lot of coaches. When I go to train and to practise, no matter what I must just follow the coach and do as asked. I’m always just an athlete not an Olympic champion. I will never disrespect them or make a coach feel like I think I am more than someone, even if I have more titles than them. When the coach and athlete believe in each other they get good results. Trust, relationship, together, no-one is superior.

Before winning that gold in London, it was just a dream because I didn’t have a lot of experience in big environments and after that medal, I got my experience!"

The London 2012 -66 kg final.

"When you’re doing something only to be Olympic champion but then combining it, when you really love what you are doing, the passion is powerful and also useful; combining the passion and the dream.

Right up until now I just enjoy doing my job. The financial part was never a main focus for me, just enjoying it. In business, the money is the focus but in sport if you don’t like what you’re doing, money won’t help you to be the best. In other areas of life you can find huge financial rewards but never get this enjoyment and satisfaction that being a champion brings. When you drive a good car it’s cool but the 11th time it’s nothing special. If you go to a special resort it’s cool at first but then it becomes simple and the novelty is gone but in sport when I have a good result I want to do more, endlessly.

I really understand that one day I have to say goodbye to judo at this level but before that I have to spend 100% of myself on this exercise, this life. The sport career is very short and judo is a very hard sport but I am still here.

To win the Olympic gold was the biggest thing I wanted in my life and it’s important to want something and then do your best. It was one of the best days of my life. Before, I was in juniors and I didn’t even understand senior events. It was all so new but regardless of the environment or lack of experience, if you really want to win you have to give everything. That day was like that."

"I think that day that among all the athletes competing in the Olympics, I wanted to become champion the most, more than anyone. My mind was so free that day because I didn’t think about anything outside, I had no barriers. I told myself that it is my day and my chance.

When I was competing in the juniors my extra enjoyment was to take pictures with high level athletes, just before the Olympics, and then it was actually me."

"This process is like when a child goes to school, studying everything step by step. Maybe it was in my character from before. I always studied my mistakes and the mistakes of those close to me and always looked to be better.”