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Gocha Chichiashvili

(1973 - )

Gocha Chichiashvili was born Nov. 7, 1973, in Tbilissi, Georgia.

Chichiashvili, a Greco-Roman wrestler, competed for the Soviet Union in 1991 and won the bronze medal in the 81-kg class at the Junior World Championships. In 1994, he emigrated to Israel and took the silver medal at the European Championships in the 82-kg division that year. The following year, he captured the bronze medal at the European Championships and then was the silver medalist at the World Championships, thus becoming the first Israeli in history to medal at the World Championships.

A member of Hapoel Beersheba and a schoolteacher, Chichiashvili proved that his success in 1995 was no fluke. He captured the bronze medal at the 1996 European Championships and then finished fifth in 1998 and fourth in the same class at the 1998 World Championships. Chichiashvili then placed fifth at the 2001 European Championships and 18th at the 2001 World Championships (he won one bout and lost another in the preliminaries and was eliminated from the competition).

After an eighth place finish at the 2002 World Championships, Chichiashvili won the gold medal in the 84-kg division at the 2003 World Championship.

Chichiashvili competed in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and the Sydney Olympics in 2000. At the 1996 Games, Chichiashvili competed in the middleweight division (85-kg), and was very successful in the early rounds. He entered the semifinals undefeated, but fell to Thomas Zander of Germany and then lost a chance to compete for the bronze when he was defeated in his next match by Kazakhstan's Daulet Turlykhanov. Gocha did beat Martin Lidberg to finish in fifth, but said following the competition, "This is sports. Things happen. It's hard for me to speak...I almost had at least a silver in my hand - almost...the worst thing here is that in the semifinals, I was going for it all. There you have to suffer a bit. It's all nerves and psychology."

Determined to return to the Olympics and medal, Gocha arrived at the 2000 Sydney Games as a medal favorite in the Greco-Roman 85-kg division. He lost his first match in the elimination round to Fritz Aanes of Norway (2-7), but won his next two over Yuriy Vitt of Uzbekistan (3-0), and Amor Bach Hanba of Tunisia (11-1). Unfortunately, the performance was not enough to advance him to the semifinals and he left the Games empty-handed.

Chichiashvili was thought to be Israel's best hope for a gold medal in the 2004 Games. He fought Melonin Noumonvi of France in his first match and won handily. The bout was defensive, and a tad dull, but the Israeli imposed his will on the proceedings from the two minute mark onward and won 3-1. In his second match Gocha lost to European Champion Alexei Michine of Russia. Chichiashvili never really got into the match, which opened a mere hour after his first, and was outmatched by his fresher opponent 3-0. The Israeli wrestler failed to advance to the quarterfinals and announced his retirement after the bout.

Gocha comes from a three generation wrestling dynasty, and his cousin Yakov Manshirov was also a member of the Israeli 2004 squad.

Sources: Jews In Sports