From 2017, a group of promising young judoka joined the "Challenge 2020". Lasha Bekauri, Luka Maisuradze and Tato Grigalashvili are among them. Do these names mean anything to you? The first became Olympic champion in Tokyo, the second has just been crowned in Doha and the third won his second world title in Qatar.
David Kevkhishvili, Vice President of the Georgian Judo Federation, supervised the Challenge 2020 programme and explained how it works, "In 2017 we understood that we could not only count on the talent of our judoka. Of course it is important to be talented but this is not enough, especially if you think in the long term. The competition at the international level is very intense. All countries want to perform and there are talented people everywhere.
We started to identify young judoka with a great potential during the cadet events, in and outside of the country. We also have a U15 club championships in Georgia that gave us some good indications. We felt that, even with those really good judoka, if we didn't put something special in place, we would miss something.
We decided to run two programmes at the same time. One of the main national team and one for the young promising athletes. It was all about judo skills, but not only. We did everything for them to train in good conditions. This included also general knowledge about judo, physical and mental preparation. Step by step the Challenge 2020 became a big motivation for everyone. It created a positive concurrence between the old and younger generations. So basically we had two Georgian teams, the already experienced champion and the future ones. Today we harvest the results of that strategy."
Looking at the results is a clear demonstration of the success of Challenge 2020, but is it the end of the story? "Challenge 2020 was the first stage of the rocket. We are really happy to see that it worked even beyond our imagination. We have already initiated the next steps and we are talking about challenge 2024 and even 2028. We already know the competitors who have the potential to become the next champions and we are working with them. The programmes is sustainable and brings so much emotions and energy. It self-powered."
For Giorgi Atabegashvili, the President of the Georgian Judo Federation, things are clear, "Today it can already be said that both the federation and the judo itself in Georgia are an exemplary model for Georgian sports; how reforms can be carried out and progress can be achieved in any sport. Georgian judo has always had results, however not on such a large scale. The current achievements are the merit of a well organised system which created healthy competition in the national team and took care of the education of the next generations.
To be fair, it should be said that these reforms in judo were initiated by the current leadership of the federation, which took the development of judo to new heights and offered new innovative approaches.
Challenge 2020, which is an innovative approach to the Georgian reality, was a huge leap on the road to reform. The federation selected talented young people, took them to competitions, enabled them to live in a training centre and kept them on a strict regime. Athletes had nothing else to think about except training.
It should be noted that along with everything else, the federation took care of the sportsmen's education, hiring teachers to follow school programmes and all this turned out to be fruitful.
With Challenge 2020, great attention was also paid to discipline. We wanted to get the young people used to the sports environment from the very beginning. The federation signed contracts with the athletes, establishing a code of conduct which defined in detail what the athletes were allowed to do or not.
In addition, the federation also developed special programmes for coaches and conducted several training sessions to improve their qualifications. Our team works together with full effort for the highest goal. The great work done by the athletes, coaches, doctors, the federation and each person was really appreciated and we achieved a record result. This is one way, one vision, one team. This is the Georgian Judo Federation and we think that you will rarely see such a united, result-oriented team, not only in judo but in any sport."
The other countries are warned, Georgia had a plan and they implemented it in the best way possible. They still have a plan and soon or later, they will keep harvesting results and glory.