During this summer, Ici Beyrouth presents the saga of sportsmen of Lebanese origin and pays tribute in this article to the great national champion, the judoka Nacif Elias.
“I am retiring from judo.” In an exclusive interview with Here Beirut, the 34-year-old judoka announces his retirement, one year after participating in the Tokyo Games: “Unfortunately, it’s time for me to retire from judo, I haven’t found a coach and that is why it is difficult for me to remain efficient at the highest level. I am happy with my career, I have never had a large structure to support me compared to other countries, but I proudly represented Lebanon and won titles! I retired from judo and now focus on MMA and no-Gi Jiu-Jitsu fights. I plan to compete in a big event and to win the belt! I hope to soon be able to carry the flag of Lebanon at major international events!” It is therefore the end clap for our national champion after a long and very good career on the tatami. Back on the great performances of his career.
It was perhaps a sign, Elias Nacif was born on September 29, 1988 in Brazil, more precisely in Vitória, in the region of Espírito Santo during the Olympic Games (JO) in Seoul; a sign that brought him luck since 28 and 33 years later, he represented Lebanon at two editions of the games: Rio and Tokyo.
Very early on, he began a career in judo with the Brazilian national team. Physically and mentally strong, a hard worker, he trains an average of five hours a day, Monday to Friday – workouts split between morning, afternoon and evening. On Saturday he only does one training session and on Sunday he rests. His idols in judo are Flávio Canto, bronze medalist at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and Luciano Corrêa, world judo champion in 2007.
Fan of combat sports, he follows judo, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing and like a good Brazilian… football. Between 2009 and 2013, the champion participated in more than 25 international and continental competitions under the colors of Brazil, including 6 Grand Slam tournaments, 5 Grand Prix, 15 World Cup events and the World Championship in Rotterdam in 2009.
In 2013, he was naturalized Lebanese – his great-grandfather was Lebanese – and represents the colors of Lebanon. “A difficult choice”, he said at the time, but the offer he received from the Lebanese Judo Federation was attractive since it offered him to participate in eight competitions a year, while the he Brazilian national team allowed him to participate in three or four tournaments at most.
After his naturalization, Nacif Elias made several trips to Lebanon, where he trained with the Buddha Club of Jounieh. Elected best Lebanese athlete in 2013 and 2014 by the Lebanese Olympic Committee, the Brazilian judoka benefited from the full support of the National Judo Federation, which financed his competitions and preparations.
Since August 2013, under the colors of Lebanon, Nacif Elias participated in more than 50 international competitions, in the -81 kg category, including the two Olympic Games, 6 world championships, 16 Grand Slam events, 8 continental championships, 10 Grand Prix, 8 continental open tournaments…
His record is impressive: with Brazil, he won the Brazilian championship, a silver medal at the Francophone Games in 2009 and a gold medal in 2013, the gold medal in two World Cup events at Isla Margarita in Venezuela and San Salvador in El Salvador in 2010, a silver medal at the World Cup events in Miami and Buenos Aires and finally bronze in Sao Paolo and Budapest.
With Lebanon, he obtains a second place in the 17e Asian Games which took place in Incheon, South Korea in 2014 and a silver medal at the Asian Judo Championship which took place in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in 2016. He also won 6 gold medals and two bronze at the Open PanAm between 2014 and 2018, and a bronze medal at the 2018 Grand Prix in Cancun.
He participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and 2021 in Tokyo. In Rio, he was eliminated in the 81 kg event in the second round, in his first match, by Argentinian Emmanuel Lucenti. In Tokyo, he was eliminated in the 32nd round by South Korean Lee Sung-ho.
He was Lebanon’s flag bearer during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Asian Games and the 2020 Olympics (finally held in 2021) with shooter Ray Bassil.
Nacif Elias ends a career of more than 13 years at the highest level, but his warrior appetite promises us to see him again soon in other combat sports competitions.