Geno Petriashvili

Geno Petriashvili: From being captured by Russians to becoming an Olympic medalist

As the saying goes, “History repeats itself.” We often use history to predict what could happen in the future and learn from our mistakes. Today is the day that Georgian forces fought back against the Russian invasion in the year 2008. Compare that to the Russian invasion of Ukraine this past February and we get to see that the old adage of history repeating itself holding true. The Ukrainians are holding off the Russians but just barely. Like Ukraine, Georgia had to fend off the invading Russians who wanted to incorporate them into their country back to what it was as the former Soviet Union. In war there are casualties. Both living and passed all pay a price. Today I want to tell the story of one of those: Georgian Olympian Geno Petriashvili.

Geno Petriashvili: The Olympian

Georgia has a great tradition in wrestling. With their folkstyle, which is called chidaoba, wrestling is a part of what makes Georgian culture so unique. If you look at it on a world map, it shares borders with Azerbaijan, Chechnya, and Dagestan. The region, despite all of it’s political differences (and the differences are quite drastic) is full of wrestlers with accolades at the highest levels. Abdelrashid Sadulaev of Dagestan and Haji Aliyev from Azerbaijan won medals in the last Olympic Games. Alongside of them was Geno Petriashvili.

A three time World Champion, Geno Petriashvili won bronze in the 2016 Olympic Games and silver in the 2020 that took place in Tokyo. In Tokyo, he went through Diaaeldin Abdelmottaleb, Zhiwei Deng, and Amir Hossein Zare to get to the finals match.

He wasn’t destined for gold, as we know the United States Gable Steveson barely beat him with a buzzer beater of a go-behind to take home the gold. But that wasn’t the hardest fight of his life.

Kidnapped by Russians

I was originally put on this story by my good friend Giorgi Kokiashvili, who is a Georgian native himself. He shared a tweet of his to my Discord server talking about the kidnapping of Geno Petriashvili in 2005.

With tensions rising between Georgia and Russia, things started happening at the border. In August of 2005, Geno Petriashvili was living in Nuli, Georgia, only 40 miles from the Russian border and a conflict zone between Georgia and the South Ossetians. South Ossetia is a Russian occupied area of Georgia that the Georgians call Tskhinvali. The area is rife with war and conflict. It was October of that year that an 11 year old Geno Petriashvili was kidnapped by unnamed scourge.

When he was on his way home with friends, masked men kidnapped the future Georgian Olympian. It was then he was held in a basement and was given just enough food and water not to die. He’s 11. These masked men take him.

Local villagers and law enforcement tried to follow them but the kidnappers passed through the Russian border and wouldn’t be allowed through by the Russian peackeepers. Petriashvili was chained to a wall and was beaten by the kidnappers after an off hand comment in response to being told that Georgians were Christian pigs.

The Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution at the time said that these were “actions directed against the peace process.”

In November, classmates of young Geno Petriashvili refused to study. They went to school without books and bags and were protesting the kidnapping of their classmate and putting more spotlight on the situation with the government.

Not long after, Petriashvili was released by the kidnappers. He was hardly able to walk from lack of nourishment and mistreatment.

“On the 25th of November, 4:10 a.m. the special operation for the release of the kidnapped 11 year-old boy Genadi Petriashvili was over. Officers of the militia and staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of South Ossetia conducted the operation for two days in the territory of the Georgian border. The health condition of the child is stable.”

While the details of the operation are not known, all that truly matters is that Petriashvili was freed. But the pain didn’t cease and Petriashvili carries that experience with him to this day.

The Aftereffects of A Kidnapping

To this day, Geno Petriashvili remains mum on what happened to him during his time kidnapped as an 11 year old. His friends know he doesn’t talk about it and who can blame him? Reliving that trauma is not something any human being would want to do.

Even after he went on to be a two time medalist in the Olympic Games, Geno Petriashvili still carries those demons with him. Ever since the kidnapping, Petriashvili has had heart problems and been on Preductal, something that got him suspended in 2014 by the UWW. With it being a pre-existing condition, Petriashvili was reprieved and allowed to wrestle again.

It just goes to show you that no matter how big you are, how tough you may be, there are still demons that we can carry. Hell, you can even be a 2 time Olympian. But you’re not immune to natural human emotions.

Geno Petriashvili may not talk about his time much, but that’s how he deals with his trauma. Geno Petriashvili still needs prayers, even 17 years later. But he is a prime example that despite your demons, despite being kidnapped by Russians as a child, overcoming those demons are still possible. You can still be an Olympian.


In addition to covering Olympic karate and kickboxing for My MMA News, Blaine Henry, the author, also analyzes fights from all combat sports across the globe. 

Blaine Henry can be found on Twitter, on his podcast, and Discord.

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