Kakhi Kakhiashvili:

  • Georgian Weightlifting Federation president
  • Three – times Olympic champion and record holder.
  • Many times – World and European champion / record holder, many times world cup winner and Georgian national champion.
  • Many times best athlete (Georgia and Greece).
  • Gold medalist of the President (Greece); Gold medalist of the Parliament (Greece).
  • Awarded with: The Presidential Order of Excellence (Georgia); Vakhtang Gorgasali Order II degree; the EUROPEAN OLYMPIC LAUREL award.
  • NATO Air Force Colonel. 
  • Honorary citizen of Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney.
Kakhi Kakhiashvili

Welcome to this exclusive interview with weightlifting legend, Kakhi Kakhiashvili.

With a long career, Kakhiashvili is one of the most decorated weightlifters in history, having won three consecutive Olympic gold medals and multiple world and European  championships. In this interview, we will dive deep into his career, discussing his training regime, mental preparation for competitions, and the challenges he faced along the way. We’ll also learn more about his current role at the Georgia Weightlifting Federation and his new career path in winemaking. Get ready to be inspired by the wisdom and experience of this incredible lifter.

Can you tell us about your early years and how you got interested in weightlifting?

I tried myself in many ways – I was a gymnast, a chess player, a football player. Then I broke my leg during playing a football and I remained in the offside position.  In 1981, when I started weightlifting at the age of 12, no one in my family really liked this idea, including me.I was invited to weightlifting by my neighbor Vano Grikurov, who I thought was a boxing coach. I was happy, I thought I would learn to fight and protect myself from my classmates. When I saw the weightlifting equipment in the gym, I was surprised. I thought to myself, what am I doing here? Then I assumed weightlifting would be just physical preparation and then I would move to the boxing club. However, thanks to my coach, Vano Grikurov, I have been in weightlifting for 42 years now. He was the great coach who made me fall in love with this sport, and it continues to this day. I saw a rapid increase in results, which was reflected in numbers and kilograms day by day. From the very beginning, Vano had set great Olympic plans and we diligently followed these plans step by step.

Kakhi Kakhiashvili

You were one of the greatest weightlifters of your time, and for sure your training regime played a crucial role in your success. Can you describe what a typical training day or week looked like for you, and how it differed from the training programs that weightlifters follow today? What do you think are the pros and cons of the “old-school” approach to training, and what advice would you give to weightlifters  who are looking to optimize their training regimes?

It may surprise you, but for all 30 years, from the very first day and till the last day, I have recorded all the workout. On the way to achieving success, the most important and I would say – decisive thing is qualification, professional coach, physical and technical data, hard work, state support and of course luck in sport. 

I was lucky in all aspects. exhaustion was unfamiliar to me. I had a coach of the highest category in the Soviet Union. In my homeland – Georgia, people love sports, and luck in sports has usually been on my side. 

An important factor is adherence to the regime, which at that time was given a big role. The attitude towards sports in Georgia then and now was almost the same. However, in the Soviet Union, the well-being of sports was part of the propaganda. Everything changes, but the main condition remains unchanged, which implies diligence and love for work. Dedication and hard work never goes to waste.

Winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals is an amazing feat that very few athletes have accomplished. Can you share with us the emotions you experienced during those moments, and what was going through your mind as you stood on the podium and heard your national anthem? How did you prepare for those Olympic games, and what were your training and mental preparation like leading up to those moments?

Unforgettable and different feelings, which I remember clearly even now, after all these years.

As a result of proper planning and hard work, becoming the best in the world is an extraordinary, unique and proud feeling… Thinking that we did it and we beat everyone…  Nothing can compare to this feeling… If I were to start my sports career again, I would go the same way, maybe more subtly based on my experience, but still, I would do the same.

Achieving success in any field requires overcoming obstacles and persevering through challenging times. Can you tell us about some of the moments in your career when you doubted yourself or felt like giving up, and how you overcame those feelings? How you made it to lift exactly the necessary weight to win?

The most challenging is to overcome self-belief. My coach taught me that no one can beat you until you give up. Of course, we all have moments when we can give up… Something similar happened to me when I was about to give up. It happened at the age of 17-18, but the support of friends and family members, along with the professionalism of the coach, helped me to overcome the psychological weakness at that moment.

We know that you competed for Georgia initially, but later switched to Greece. Can you share with us the story behind that decision? How did you feel about leaving your home country, and what challenges did you face in adapting to a new culture and way of life in Greece? Looking back on that experience, what were some of the highs and lows of that journey, and how has it shaped the person you are today?

Civil war, war with neighboring Russia, disintegration of the country and failure or inability to build a new one. Internal and external factor problems for our country. All this led to the fall of the sport to a very low level.

After winning the Olympic Games in Barcelona, when I returned to Georgia, my results were regressing. Due to the lack of conditions and the hardships in the country, it became more and more problematic to conduct the training in full. I started getting injured, losing competitions.

During this period, I received offers from different countries. However, I could not go anywhere until all my friends and relatives advised me to go, especially until my grandfather told me to go – “son, take care of yourself and help us too”.

That’s how I ended up in my second homeland, Greece, where I continued to compete on international platform. Both of my homelands benefited from my allocation. 

I gained medals for “Hellada” (Greece) and held national championships in Georgia. I was granting scholarships to promising young athletes and helped them with equipment.

It’s not that easy psychologically to move to another country. It was hard to leave my usual environment, friends and family, but Greece accepted me. Both my homelands were celebrating my victory together.

Throughout your weightlifting career, you accomplished many incredible feats that have been celebrated and recognized by fans around the world. However, is there a particular moment or memory that stands out to you as a favorite, but that people may not know about? Can you share with us the story behind that moment, what emotions you experienced, and why it was so meaningful to you? And finally, how has that moment shaped your perspective on life and influenced the person you are today?

First of all, I would like to say that I did not want to take the Barcelona Olympic medal from my chest. It should be noted that it has remained an absolute best result of all times and all weight categories – 146 kilograms more than own body weight. This record remained unbroken and exceeds the results of Yurik Vardanyan, Naim Suleymanoglu, Yury Zakharevich, Anatoly Khrapaty, Nicu Vlad etc.

The Barcelona medal is also special because along with my opponents I had to fight with the coaching staff from my team. The head coach of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) national team, Vasil Alekseev, was deliberately holding me back.
I completed 5 attempts, declared by Alekseev, gained points for team classification, and guaranteed myself second place, losing the gold medal by 12.5 kilograms. I asked my coach to declare this weight for my last attempt and he agreed, saying now I could do whatever I want. He probably gave me permission only because he thought that I could not overcome such a big difference in kilograms, especially since I had to overcome 7 kilograms more than the Olympic record. There were cynical conversations behind my back, that barbell would not even reach my knees. 

I declared a winning weight, which I lifted to my knees, put it above my head and I fixed it. I won, I won Olympic gold. There was great joy, which the whole of Georgia including my native region of Tskhinvali, celebrated together.

Currently you are President of the Georgian Weightlifting Federation. Can you tell us what you’re doing to help develop and promote weightlifting in Georgia? How does it feel to give back to the sport that gave you so much, and what do you hope to achieve through your work with the federation?

Since 2015, I have been leading the National Weightlifting Federation of Georgia, which was handed over to me with doping problems, minus 4 leading athletes and minus 100 thousand dollars fine. I took charge of a federation that was in danger of being disqualified.

Together with my team, we achieved that we are the leading team (in classification) in Europe for the 5th year. We have been second best team at the world championships for many years, and we have the same result at the Olympic Games.

We established 40 new training facilities across the country, which is 10 times more than it was before us. The number of athletes also increased 10 times. Infrastructure and equipment have been renewed and improved. The country has hosted three major international championships, which were given the highest evaluation by specialists. Then president of the European Weightlifting Federation and today’s general secretary of the International Federation Mr. Antonio Urso, appreciated the 2019 European Championship held in Batumi as an event of the tomorrows. 

We have a three-times world’s best weightlifter in the absolute weight category. During the period of my leadership, Georgian weightlifters have won about 400 medals on the international competitions. 

Under my leadership for these 7 years, we have been named the best sport federation in Georgia for five times. I was nominated as the best manager 3 times. In recent years, the head coach and athletes of the national team have been nominated as the best of the year, among both Junior and Senior women and men athletes.

I think these numbers and titles speak for themselves. 

What is our goal? I want us to be the best in the world.

After retiring from weightlifting, you started a new chapter in your life as a winemaker. Can you tell us about that journey and how you developed an interest in winemaking? What drew you to this industry, and how did you learn the skills needed to become successful in this field?

Wine is not a business to me. This is an amateur project for friends and representatives of our sport society, to offer the traditional wine assortment of Georgia, the birthplace of wine. It will also be available for tasting in Yerevan.

As someone who has achieved so much in the sport of weightlifting, what advice would you give to your younger self, and to young athletes who aspire to achieve greatness in their chosen sport? What lessons did you learn during your career that you think would be valuable for young weightlifters to know?

Hard work and dedication. These two components are the path to a greater goal. Don’t give up, outdo yourself and hard work will pay off!

Additionan Comment:

“A united Europe and the world will achieve higher results for the benefit of weightlifting,
I, myself, have contributed a little bit this way. I established a weightlifting facility in only 1 kilometer from the occupation line, the so-called border of Samachablo, and I am trying to promote the friendship of children from both sides of the line. Let’s seek professionalism in each other. Positive impulses, positive understanding, let’s seek and strengthen this side and not problems”, stated Georgian Weightlifting Federation President, three – times Olympic champion and record holder,  Kakhi Kakhiashvili.



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