“I am stronger now”: Georgia’s Tibilashvili can finally believe


Georgia’s Nino Tibilashvili has reflected on her historic silver medal from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, saying it has given her new strength and belief.

Tibilashvili became the first Georgian wheelchair fencer to win a medal at the Paralympics, finishing second in the debut of the women’s sabre category A.

Georgia have had a small, but effective, team of fencers for some years but had not broken onto the podium. Even athletes such as multiple World Championships medallist – and 2017 sabre world champion – Irma Khetsuriani had failed to achieve the feat.

But former youth sabre world title winner Tibilashvili was able to reach new heights.

“That was the magic feeling that will last my whole life,” she said of the moment she knew she was guaranteed a medal in Tokyo. “This was as important to me as my coaches and team, they rise and teach me, and this was our achievement.

“For small country as Georgia win of the person is a victory of the people and country.”

With the silver around her neck, Tibilashvili has a new sense of confidence as well as enjoying the practical benefits that winning a medal brings.

“I have changed. Now, I am stronger, and I believe in myself more. Also, my financial condition and lifestyle has changed.”

Georgia's Nino Tibilashvili celebrates a shot on gold in the women's sabre category A
Credit: Haruo Wanibe

This might be worrying for her competitors heading into the season-ending International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Pisa, Italy, from 18-20 November.

Tibilashvili did not take a break after the Paralympics. Instead she continued to train in preparation for ending the year on a high. It will be only the second World Cup of 2021 and the 24-year-old does not want to miss the chance to learn and improve yet more.

Tibilashvili hopes that her performance in Tokyo helps to gain interest in wheelchair fencing in Georgia over the coming years, and that she can entertain people. As someone who was born with a leg-length difference, she feels she can be a role model for others and encourage them to “fight for their dreams.”

The European Championships will take place in Krakow, Poland, in late 2022 and will be followed by the 2023 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Championships in Terni, Italy.

A lot could happen before the next Paralympics in Paris in 2024, but Tibilashvili has the Games firmly in her mind.

“To be honest I was thinking that I will achieve more in Paris 2024, and the winning of Tokyo 2020 made my goal more realistic. My next big goal is to win in Paris,” she said.

The 2021 IWAS Wheelchair Fencing World Cup will feature men’s and women’s sabre, epee and foil category A individual and team events from 18-20 November.

Live results will be available here and competition will be broadcast live at the IWAS YouTube channel.