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Georgia Takes 2 Gold, 1 Silver in the World Nomad Games

08.09.2016

Billed as an alternative to the Olympics, the 2nd Biannual World Nomad Games hosted over 60 countries as athletes competed in traditional “ethnosports” that were taken from numerous nomadic cultures. The most popular of these games has been kok boru, an aggressive sport in which two teams on horseback attempt to throw a goat carcass into a concrete pit. The Games have also showcased intellectual sports such as Mangala, horseback wrestling, falconry, and archery.

Georgia’s delegation of athletes included falconers, dog trainers, archers, and mass-wrestlers. All three of the Georgian medalists were mass-wrestlers. Valita Gorelchniki, the gold medalist in the Women’s 55kg mass-wrestling competition, only started training for the sport six months ago. Mass-wrestling, she explained, looks easy but requires an athlete’s entire body to be in peak physical condition. In the sport, two competitors sit facing each other with their feet against a ply-wood board. They reach forward and grip a short rod – one athlete’s hands on the inside of the rod, and the other’s hands on the ends of the rod. On the referee’s signal, both competitors begin to pull and twist on the rod in an attempt to score a point. A point can be scored when they pull the rod out of their opponent’s hands, pull their opponent over the board, or knock their opponent sideways on to the mat. The winner is chosen after scoring in 2 out of 3 consecutive rounds.

32 countries competed in the mass-wrestling competition that also doubled as the Mass-Wrestling World Championship. Besides Valita, Georgia’s Zviad Kajaia earned a gold medal in the Men’s 125kg category, and Valeri Adamadze earned a silver in the Men’s 60kg category.

While Georgia did not place in any other sport, falconer Luka Sartania explained that athletes who were competing with animals were at a disadvantage. Sartania, for example, competed in Berkut, a hunting competition with golden eagles. Due to the difficulty, cost, and customs issues involved with transporting a bird across borders, Sartania had to rent an eagle once he arrived in Kyrgyzstan and train it in only 3 days. Despite the obvious drawbacks with this system, Sartania still placed 6th in the competition.

The 2016 World Nomad Games are already being lauded as a success. The first games were held in 2014 and billed as a “Pan-Turkic” competition. The games were notoriously unorganized, attendance was rather low, the vast majority of competitors were from Kyrgyzstan, and they received very little press coverage. This year proved to be a more international experience with a wide array of countries competing, including the USA, Benin, Guatemala, Iceland, Sri Lanka, and 12 different Russian territories. Besides the sports competitions, attendees were also treated to nomadic cultural showcases, a yurt building competition, and horseback stunt shows. The Opening Ceremony itself lasted 3 hours, featured flaming horse riders, and was attended by special guest Stephen Seagal.

The organizers of the games hope to foster an international interest in nomadic sports, and announced at a press conference on Tuesday that another country will be hosting the 2018 games.

Author: Billie Jean Stirewalt
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