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Khabareli surges to judo supremacy

Khabareli surges to judo supremacy

02/08/1980

Russia and East Germany hoovered up the majority of the medals at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, but judo was a sport where the spoils were expected to be shared more evenly.

The event was held at the splendidly atmospheric Sports Palace in Luzhniki, where the tight confines and vociferous crowd made for a superb fighting arena.

Unfortunately, the men’s half middleweight event was deprived of its biggest name because of the boycott.

Japan’s Shozo Fujii had won the world title in Paris in spectacular fashion the previous year, and would have been the favourite had he been allowed to compete in Moscow.

That honour duly fell to the Frenchman Bernard Tchoullyan, the man he’d beaten in the world championship final.

Tchoullyan eased through the early rounds, but defeat in the semi-final left the path open for Georgian-born Russian Shota Khabareli.

The 21-year-old had never won a major judo medal, but the experts sat up and took notice when he disposed of world championship bronze medallist Harald Heinke in the last 16.

He took out Bulgarian Georgi Petrov in the quarter-final, and when he surged past Romanian Mircea Fratica in the semi-finals, he suddenly found himself in a battle for the gold.

There he would face Cuban judoka Juan Ferrer La Hera, and the two enjoyed a classic game of cat and mouse.

The Georgian edged it and held his alarms aloft when the final buzzer rang out. He fell into the arms of La Hera, who graciously accepted defeat.

It was to prove the highlight of Khabareli’s career, although he took a world bronze in 1983 and went on to enjoy a successful coaching career.

Discover the best photos of Moscow 1980

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    The final torchbearer, basketballer Sergei Belov, in the Moscow Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony

    ©IOC

  • Relay Moscow 1980

    A torchbearer during the Moscow 1980 Games Torch relay

    ©IOC

  • Aleksandr Dityatin (URS)

    Aleksandr Dityatin on the rings at the Moscow 1980 Games

    ©IOC

  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The reverse of this medal is very different from its obverse. However, it is not the work of the same artist. While the obverse was a creation by Giuseppe Cassioli, the reverse was designed by Ilya Postol, a young Soviet sculptor. We can see several elements that stand out through their stylisation: an Olympic cauldron, an athletics track in the background and the official logo of the Moscow Games on the top right ©CIO

  • Winner's medal Moscow 1980

    The obverse comprises a design by Tuscan artist Giuseppe Cassioli. This motif can be found on the obverse of all the winner’s medals presented at the Summer Games since 1928 with the exception of three special cases: Barcelona'92, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. An inscription, in Cyrillic, allows us to make the link with the Moscow Games. This is its transcription in the Latin alphabet and its translation: “Igry XXII Olympiady Moskva 1980” / “Games of the XXII Olympiad, Moscow 1980”©IOC

  • Opening Ceremony Moscow 1980

    View of the delegations standing in front of the Misha mascot created by the public holding up boards

    ©IOC

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