There is a saying in almost every sport: “It’s a young man’s game.” As athletes get older, skills start to wane and younger, more hungry lions come to take their spot as leader of the pride. For 37 year old Georgian karateka, Gogita Arkania, that saying means nothing. His goal coming into 2021 was to prove that he was still top of the heap when it came to 84 kilo kumite.
Arkania’s story starts with the Georgian Civil War. At a young age, a military coup forced his family to move from his home town to a place where democracy prevailed. It wasn’t long after that Gogita Arkania discovered the sport that would eventually make him a champion.
“I am from Ochamchire. It is a place which we have lost after war. I left there everything, my home, my family members. I was 8 years old and we moved in another city, Zugdidi. In Zugdidi, I started to do trainings when I was 13 years old.”
Outside of karate, Arkania also practices judo, which can sometimes go hand in hand with karate. With the deep heritage of Georgian grappling, it’s really no surprise that Gogita Arkania also does judo.
“Together with karate, I practice judo also,” says Arkania. “I was learning some throws and in my career, the de ashi barai is my favorite technique.”
Arkania also says that his country is strong. Throughout combat sports, Georgia is a very tough and talented country. They routinely do great in sports like wrestling, judo, MMA and, as we see with Gogita Arkania, karate. We’ve even seen Georgians do well in sumo with Tochinoshin’s rise to ozeki.
“Georgia is a small but strong country. We are people who like to fight. Georgians are good warriors.”
Gogita Arkania, The Olympics, And Becoming World Champion
Gogita Arkania is out to show that age is just a number. Going into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, his goal was to prove just that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and Arkania came up short at the Games.
“The Olympic Games were not successful for me. I finished with fifth place and I think that I could not do my best there. But this is sport and everything happens. After losing the Olympics, I had a dream to win in Dubai. Many people think that I was too old and I cannot do big results. But 2021 was the most successful year for me. I am grand winner first time in my life.”
As Arkania said, he could not be deterred and immediately set his sights on the World Karate Championships in Dubai. His first World Karate Championship came in 2014 when he was in his athletic prime. Now, seven years later, he’s a crafty veteran. Not many thought he would become champion again, especially at this point in his career. Arkania talks about the hard work and pain he’s endured to reach the level of World Champion again. The path was not easy.
“I am very happy that I became World Champion a second time and especially because I did it at age 37. I wanted to show to everybody that age is nothing when you want to do something with all of your heart. Of course, it was a big teamwork for me: my coach, my family and of course the doctor of our national team. Without them, I could not win. I have a lot of injuries. I was training with painkillers. I want to say thanks to everybody who helped and supported me.”
Now that he is two time World Champion, Gogita Arkania doesn’t think he’s finished. He plans on getting his leg, which has caused him so much problem, fixed. After that, he has his sights set on the World Games in June 2022. He plans on making a big statement there!
“I am not finish yet. I am continuing my job and what I need to do is operation on my leg. After, I will prepare for the World Games. “
Leaving with parting words, Arkania says that winning a World Championship at his age is proof that with enough will and determination, anything is possible. “I would say to them that if they want it, everything is possible.”
While the World Games are a little bit off, Gogita Arkania has a long road to recovery ahead of him. But the Georgian’s story is that of the old veteran: wise beyond what his body can do and overcoming that hurdle to achieve glory he’s tasted as a younger man.