by Oon Yeoh of JudoCrazy
Guram Tushishvili is without doubt the most exciting fighter in the Men’s +100kg weight class. The fact that he used to be a U100kg fighter means he’s not big and sluggish like some heavyweights can be but is relatively smaller and nimble. He also does techniques that big heavyweights don’t normally do like drop seoi-nage.
Tushishvili made a big splash at the 2017 Budapest World Championships when he nearly threw Teddy Riner in the semifinal. Actually he did throw him with a foot-sweep but Riner managed to land enough on his front to avoid conceding a score.
Judo fans were excited at the prospects of a rematch in the 2017 Marrakech World Open Championships later that year but there he lost to Riner in his opening match.
The interesting thing about Tushishvili is when he loses, he completely crashes out. But when he wins, he wins big.
For example, at the 2018 Paris Grand Slam, he didn’t even medal. At both the 2018 Ekaterinburg Grand Slam and the 2018 Osaka Grand Slam, he crashed out in the first round. He also failed to medal at the 2018 Tel Aviv European Championships.
But lest you think 2018 was a wash-out year for Tushishvili, you should know he got gold at the 2018 Tbilisi Grand Prix, 2018 Zagreb Grand Prix and the prestigious 2018 World Masters in Guangzhou. And of course he got the big prize: gold at the 2018 Baku World Championships.
So, you could say that 2018 was a very mixed year for Tushishvili. On the one hand he failed to medal at some important competitions including a couple of Grand Slams and the European Championships. On the other hand he won the World Masters and the World Championships.
Tushishvili hasn’t competed much in 2019. So far, it’s only two events, one small one and a big one. He won both: gold at the 2019 Cluj World Cup and the 2019 European Games with a fantastic win in the final.
It would have been tantalizing to see him compete in the upcoming 2019 Montreal Grand Prix, where Riner is making his comeback but alas Tushishvili is not competing. Instead, his compatriots, Levani Matiashvili and Gela Zaalishvili, will be in Montreal. Especially Matiashvili has a good drop seoi nage too.
It looks like we may have to wait until the 2019 Tokyo World Championships to see a potential match-up between Tushishvili and Riner. Assuming they will meet there, who will prevail? Of course the general assumption is that Riner has the upper hand despite being away for so long, on account of his huge size and power. Plus, he has been training though not competing.
But training and competing are not exactly the same thing and Tushishvili is a much more experienced player now compared to the last time they fought in 2017. It is a fact that Tushishvili is much smaller than Riner, who could still out-power him with strong grips. Provided Tushishvili can avoid being clamped down by Riner and can do quick and nimble drop attacks on the mighty Frenchman, he might just be able to pull it off.
In the absence of Tushishvili in Montreal, we might still see an interesting match-up between Teddy Riner and Hisayoshi Harasawa, a repeat of their 2016 Rio final.