Interview

Ilias Iliadis (GRE)

 

ILIADIS READY TO GET STARTED

 Family man Ilias Iliadis speaks on his life away from judo is all because of the sport.

 

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: The most striking aspect about Ilias Iliadis is his ability to smile endlessly. And it is a genuine smile that extends to his eyes as he answers every question with interest and even volunteers more information.

 

“He has a great sense of humour and is a very positive person when he is at home. He is always making me and our children laugh with his comments,” says his wife of 10 years, Lia Grigoriadi. It is one of those rare events where the 2004 Olympic gold medallist gets chance to experience some family time, even though his children are back home in Greece.

 

“It is difficult to travel so extensively on the tour when you spend so much time away from your family but mentally we are always together and I make it a point to speak with them everyday when I am away,” says Iliadis as he commends his wife for her unflinching support in his pursuit of excellence in judo. It is clear when how much he loves the sport that has given him everything when he says ‘my life is judo’. Perhaps it is the same sentiment that brings him to the arena each day even when he is not competing, just so that he can watch the judo action on display along with his wife.

 

“This is my first time in Abu Dhabi and I feel good and strong,” says Iliadis a day ahead of competition in the -90 kg category. However, despite his status as one of the heavyweights of the sport, his recent record has not been the most glowing. “I don’t live in the past and only move one step at a time towards the future,” says the 2014 world champion. His easygoing nature is exemplified by his admission that he never looks at the draw till such time as he finishes his warm-up just before stepping on the tatami. It keeps him ‘instinctive’ and allows him a much ignored luxury - a good night’s sleep.

 

Ilias Iliadis after his win at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo Japan

 

“I like to sleep well before the competition and don’t like to wake up in the middle of the night thinking of what my opponent would be doing the day after,” explains Iliadis about his habit that runs contrary to what most other competitors practice. “I need to also prepare my mind before I head into competition as my current weight category (-90 kg) requires me to think more than I used to,” he further adds. Quiz him on what is the other difference in the switch up from the -81 kg category and he says that he used to move faster.

 

It was in Athens that life completely changed for Iliadis as he won gold in front of a home crowd. “I was very young then and have matured a lot as a person and a fighter now. Judo has given me everything and has taught me how to respect others and respect family,” says the family man as he further discusses how he would like his children to learn the same values at a young age even if the choice of what they do in their lives would be left completely to them. “My son is practicing gymnastics currently,” he says. It is a family rooted in sport as his wife used to be a national level tennis player herself. Nowadays she just likes to teach tennis and her daughter also practices some of the sport.

 

Ilias ILIADIS (GRE) vs. Tiago CAMILO (BRA) at the London Olympic Games in 2012

 

When Iliaidis says judo has given him everything he literally means it. The sport has given him his fame, fortune and sense of balance in life. But it also led him into matrimony.

 

“Sometime before the 2004 Olympics he told me that we had to get married if he won gold in Athens,” says Grigoriadi. Iliadis quickly chips in with saying, “about 8 months before the Olympics I had the confidence that I would win gold.” It is the same confidence that he displays while talking of his chances for the Olympics in Rio. “I need to ensure a good seeding for myself so that I have a good pool,” explains Iliadis but equally candidly he says that he will only consciously start thinking of the Olympics next year after the season gets over in December.

 

“When I get on the tatami, I just want to win. I must win,” he says. Well-rested and hungry, Iliadis will be the man to watch when the -90 kg competition begins on the mat on Sunday morning.

 

Photos © IJF media by Gabriela Sabau, Tamas Zahonyi and Jack Willingham

 

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