Last week, Guram Tushishvili won the heavyweight bronze medal at the European Championships. For a long time, he was known as an all-or-nothing player. Guram Tushishvili either got a gold medal or no medal at all.
Early in Tushishvili’s career, that was the case for a long time. His first IJF World Tour was the Baku Grand Slam in 2013, where he lost the first match. Between then and the 2020 Düsseldorf Grand Slam, he will either win a gold medal (of which he will accumulate seven in the meantime) or nothing. That trend was finally broken at the 2021 Tel Aviv Grand Slam, where he won his first IJF bronze medal.
This phenomenon also happened in the European Championships. His first European Championship was in 2014, and by 2019 he had two gold medals, but no bronze or silver at all. In fact, for Tushishvili, it’s all or nothing. That trend was finally broken in 2020 when he won his first European bronze medal. He repeated the feat in 2021 and this year in 2022. As a result, he now holds three European bronze medals.
Tushishvili is an interesting judoka because despite being a heavyweight, he is very athletic and very different from the fat and slow heavyweights of the past. He has long been considered the player who finally broke Teddy Reiner’s long winning streak that began after the 2010 World Championships. He almost did it in the semifinals of the 2017 World Championships when he knocked Riner down with a well-placed foot sweep (no score because Riner fell in front of him).
Unlike many heavyweights, Tushishvili favors drop techniques such as drop seoi-nage and drop sode-tsurikomi-goshi. It has long been assumed that the player to beat Riner has to be a player who can fall under him.
Interestingly, the player who ended Riner’s ten-year winning streak was another drop specialist from Japan, Kokoro Kageura – although he won their match at the 2020 Paris Grand Slam with uchimata-sukashi instead of drop technology. Also beating Riner at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was another Russian airborne specialist, Tamerlan Basayev.
Tushvili has only played Rina twice so far, losing both times. Will this Georgian get lucky a third time? It really depends on the state of Reina. When the two players last met, at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest and the 2017 World Open in Marrakech, Reina still looked sharp and powerful.
The Riner we saw at the 2020 Paris Grand Slam and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics wasn’t all that impressive. During those events, he was sluggish and seemed to have lost confidence in his uchimata. Tushishvili might be able to beat such a Riner.
Will we see a showdown between these two? Will Riner be back to his best when they meet again? Perhaps we have a chance to find out at the upcoming Budapest Grand Slam in July, when Lehner will make a comeback.