Greek judo champion Ilias Iliadis ended his legendary career after competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The three-time world champion stayed active on the mat at home and abroad while supporting IJF projects such as the #JudoForTheWorld Mongolia hit video and IJF World Judo Tour events with a recent masterclass for children at the Zagreb Grand Prix.
However, the temptation to come back into a one-off event has proved too much for the Greek great who ends his one-year absence to take part in the first Openweight World Championships since 2011.
Iliadis, 30, has made a habit of shocking the world during his legendary career during which he was arguably the face of the IJF World Judo Tour which started in 2009. The youngest male Olympic judo champion looked to be winding down to a degree during the Rio 2016 cycle with some questioning whether he would have the longevity to see the qualification phase through and to fight at the Carioca Arena 2.
Iliadis, who is the cousin of fellow 2004 Olympic champion Zurab Zviaduari (GEO), then won the 2014 World Championships, when some had written him off, to reinvigorate his career and to lead him to the Rio Olympics.
The U90kg hero never stopped training after his retirement and has been in Paris at INSEP this month to get high-quality randori before lining up against heavyweight opposition who it’s almost certain that he will never have encountered before.
Will this be Iliadis’ last stand? Only the great man himself knows, and it will be hard to judge his current condition and his performance level if he is massively outsized against a top-ranked heavyweight on his return.