Niyaz Bilalov: ‘I am very glad I have finally won the Grand Slam’

Bilalov’s second Grand Slam gold

Last Sunday, on 7 November, Russian judo champion from Naberezhnye Chelny Niyaz Bilalov won gold of the IJF Grand Slam tournament in Baku. This is the athlete’s second victory in such competitions. In 2017, he became the champion of the IJF Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi (UAE).

Like four years ago, Bilalov won the victory in the +100 kg category. He fought for the gold with Canada’s athlete Shady El Nahas in the final. By the way, his rival is a two-time winner of the Pan-American Championships. Bilalov managed to win the championship in added time. He performed a successful reception and got the highest mark Ippon in the 2nd minute of the Golden Score period.

Before the decisive battle, the Russian champion defeated Mongolia’s athlete Khangal Odbaatar in the 1/8 finals, three-time winner of Grand Slam tournaments, Japanese-born Kentaro Iidu in the quarterfinals. In the semi-final, Bilalov won a victory against Georgian judoka Onise Saneblidze.

Bilalov’s victory became the Russian team’s second Grand Slam gold in the tournament that took place in the capital of Azerbaijan from 5 to 7 November. Makhmadbek Makhmadbekov won the first victory. So the Russians won five medals: two gold, one silver and two bronze medals. Athletes from 26 countries of the world participated in the Grand Slam in Baku. Japan turned out the leader in the medal table with five gold, one silver and four bronze medals. Russia is second, Germany is third.

“I am very glad I have finally won the Grand Slam”

As Bilalov told Realnoe Vremya, he had been preparing for the Grand Slam as the next competition. He is very happy with his gold. The victory brought him more emotions than four years ago.

“I am very glad I have finally won the Grand Slam. I was always second or third, not second, always third. This time I have won. The last time I won the Grand Slam was in 2017,” Bilalov shared his impressions of the victory with Realnoe Vremya.

“Perhaps, I was happier yesterday. I had been moving towards this for long. I have more emotions.”

Bilalov praised his colleagues high. Judokas from other countries turned out to be worthy rivals:

“The Canadian was very strong. He finished fifth at the Olympics. The Japanese was strong. The Georgian was good too. All the rivals were strong.”

On his Instagram account, Bilalov thanked everybody for the support.

“We will continue working hard before the next competitions,” the athlete added.

It is yet unknown where one can see the Tatarstan judoka’s performance. According to Bilalov himself, it is up to the coaching staff.

“I watched all the videos about judo on YouTube. This is how I was into”

The Tatarstan judoka has Grand Slam bronze medals under his belt. He demonstrated his perseverance and diligence at European Championship legs. In September 2021, Bilalov, 27, became the first Tatarstan athlete to win gold at the Russian Championship in the last 20 years.

Bilalov told Realnoe Vremya that as a child he dreamt of becoming a football player, he didn’t miss matches of KAMAZ FC from Naberezhnye Chelny. However, his parents took him to a judo club “to get him busy” and didn’t even suspect their son’s career in professional sport would start this way.

Judo interested Bilalov as a teen. When he was 13-14, a coach gave him a CD with a record of a Grand Slam:

“I watched bouts of a Korean Olympic champion and thought: ‘What judo is about? How should one fight there?’ Since that moment, I watched all the videos about judo on YouTube. This is how I was into,” the athlete told Realnoe Vremya.

Judo techniques help him in everyday life too. Thanks to them, he can counterattack anybody for self-defence. Also, Bilalov says that judo made him disciplined.

“I used to be a blockhead, but now I am very disciplined. I live according to schedule, I make a list of things to do. It trains my spirit. I wouldn’t say I had a very fighting character. I became such in life due to judo, I don’t give way. I let nobody walk me over,” he explained.

Bilalov thinks the character is the most important quality for any athlete. If one has a character, “one doesn’t have to have great technique and power.” Character is key on the way to the championship, he believes.

Tatiana Dyomina