Niko Shera’s new life in judo: a tough adaptation, defeats and his first European medal

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A little less than a year ago, the Spanish judoka Niko Shera I confessed to THE ENGLISH what your future plans were. His gaze was on the Olympic gold of Tokyo 2020an objective that seemed almost an obligation after the brilliance with which the Georgian nationalized Spanish had competed.

Niko had been proclaimed world champion twice in a row in his category, the -90 kilos, something that no one had achieved in history. That’s why he was the main favorite light years from second for that medal. However, his participation was not in line with what was expected. The sensations were bad from the beginning and the nerves, tension and pressure ended up taking their toll on one of the Spanish delegation’s greatest medal hopes.

Niko left Tokyo devastated knowing that he had performed well below his level and annealing that he had missed a unique opportunity, something that he has not yet fully overcome. However, in that talk with this medium, Niko also told what his long-term future plans were, those that have now helped him overcome the bad experience of the lost medal in Japan. These went through upgrading to the category of -100 kilos, one that was going to adapt even better to their characteristics and their physical abilities.

Due to his size and power, Niko struggled to make weight and be under 200 pounds. He claimed that there were stages in which he even starved to death, since the training he underwent was extreme. That is why he decided that after the Olympic Games it was time to take the leap and climb one more step. And now, after many months of adaptation and effort, she has already achieved his first great success by hanging her first continental medal in a test of his new weight. The best Niko Shera is back.

Niko Shera during a match at Tokyo 2020


Niko, again among the greats

After spending a few difficult months with that change of category, Niko smiles again. The Spanish judoka is encountering many problems in this new life since the competitiveness that he now has is much greater. But he knew that before facing the great challenge of his career. Even so, his climb in the ranking is taking place in a dazzling way and he has already become one of the best of the new weight, going from position 120 in the ranking to getting into the positions of privilege success after success.

Of the disappointment suffered in the Tokyo Nippon Budokan to the joy experienced in this European judo held in Sofia, Bulgaria. Niko Shera won bronze, his first major medal at his new weight in a competition of this importance. Perhaps it will not be the one that shines the most in his list of winners, but it will be one of the most exciting for the judoka born in Tbilisi.

It is the confirmation that his jump in category has been worthwhile and that all the effort he has behind him has been for a good purpose. And all in less than a year in which Niko has gone through a real roller coaster of emotions and feelings. He had already decided to change category before the Tokyo Olympics. However, the pandemic ended up delaying his decision and now that he has come true, he is starting to reap the first fruits.

The national judoka began his career in the European by winning to romanian Ashley Gonzalez. Later, in the second round, he got rid of the Bulgarian Boris Georgiev in one of his best performances. Only 27 seconds of wear to close the contest by ippon. In the quarterfinals came the serious moments and the judoka settled in brunete couldn’t with the polish Pyotr Kuzcerawho had just won the world leader, the Portuguese Jorge Fonseca. This fight took him to the playoffs, where he again beat his countryman Varlam Liparteliani.

There he earned his chance to fight for one of the bronzes that was put into play. Niko didn’t make the most brilliant fight out of him, but he did make the smartest. Shera was able to measure each and every one of the seconds that the fight was lasting to attack when it was necessary and not to get carried away by nerves or pressure, as happened to her in Tokyo. She finally got to beat the dutch Simeon Catharine to finish thus achieving his first great success in the category of -100 kilos. It is the first sporting moment that returns Niko to full happiness and confirmation that he is on the right track after everything he suffered after Tokyo.

Niko Shera with his coach Quino Ruiz wearing the bronze medal of the European Judo 2022

Niko Shera with his coach Quino Ruiz wearing the bronze medal of the European Judo 2022

An ordeal with an end

Those defeats suffered in the Nippon Budokan where the tests of the Olympic Games took place meant for Niko one of the worst moments of his sporting life. He ended up mangled and broken by rage and nerves. So much so that he needed to get away from judo and competition for a few months to clear his mind of bad vibrations and thus drive away all the ghosts that arose around him. At that time, he only had one clear thing on his mind. When he came back, he had to be the one to make the jump to the next category.

For this, he prepared himself throughout the end of the year 2021 and the beginning of 2022, where he already started his first competitions in his new weight. Adapting the diet, the exercises, the loads and measuring himself against rivals who could be up to 10 kilos heavier has been a huge challenge to which he is still adapting. But the truth is that the sensations in just four months have been very positive. The best proof, that medal in the European that already confirms him as one of the best.

Niko had his first adaptation competitions at the beginning of the year and the sensations were not entirely positive. The change was going to cost him and even he had to get used to something he hadn’t frequented in recent years: losing. His first two contests were clearly lost at the first opportunity. But it was in his third tournament that he really shined again.

In January he lost in the first round against the mongolian Khangai Obbaatar in it Portuguese Grand Prix. A month later he fell in the second round against the Uzbek Muzaffarbek Turoboyev in it Paris Grand Slam. But the pupil of Quino Ruiz he was on the right track. She had to acclimate to her new surroundings and that was going to take a while. Although less than expected.

In it Antalya Grand Prixin Turkey, Niko left his first exhibition to show everyone that he had come to put the -100 kilos reign on the line. It premiered with victory against the Greek Panagiotis Papanikolaou. Then came the victories against Simeon Catharinehis rival for the bronze in the European Championship, and against the French Cedric Olivar. The sensations were optimal in those first contests and Niko’s team knew it. However, the key battle that made him take his first big break in his new world came in the quarterfinals.

There he beat a classic of the category, the Azeri Elmar Gasimov. Surely that has been one of his most brilliant victories in recent months along with the one achieved in the semifinals against the world runner-up, the Serbian Aleksandar Kukolj. It is true that in the final he did not have a chance against the absolute king, Jorge Fonseca, who is to the -100 kilos category what Niko was to the -90. But time after time, because Niko progresses adequately after having gone through very bad times and a change that has meant a before and after in his life.

That silver medal in Antalya and this bronze achieved in Sofia have been the first recognitions that Niko has obtained in his new stage. However, the goal is set for the long term. He wants to be world champion again and, above all, reach the 2024 Paris Olympics to get that gold that escaped him in Tokyo when it bore his name. At 26 years old, Niko has a splendid future ahead of him to continue dominating at the top.

[Más información: Niko Shera avanza hacia los JJOO de París: del sueño de Tokio al objetivo de alcanzar los 100 kilos]

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Niko Shera’s new life in judo: a tough adaptation, defeats and his first European medal

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