Fans, officials celebrate Georgia’s World Champs division-winning hockey team

Young fans meet the arriving Georgian team at the Tbilisi airport on Tuesday. Photo: Georgian Ice Hockey Federation., 25 Apr 2018 - 16:45, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s national hockey team returned to a jubilant reception in the capital Tbilisi on Tuesday after scoring a major win at the World Championship that earned it a promotion to a higher level of competition for next year.

The team won the Division III of the tournament hosted in Cape Town, South Africa while claiming victory in four of the five matches played.

With the resulting promotion to Division II for the 2019 competition calendar, the players and their coach Roland Svanidze achieved a result praised as "historic” by the Minister of Culture and Sport of Georgia Mikheil Giorgadze.

Players and staff of the team arrived in Tbilisi on Tuesday. Photo: Georgian Ice Hockey Federation.

Giorgadze hosted the team at a festive reception on Tuesday following their return from Cape Town.

Before the formal occasion, a group of young supporters were the first to greet the returning athletes at Tbilisi International Airport.

Wearing hockey kits, they lined up in the arrivals section of the airport to recognise the achievement of the team in the sport not usually known for its popularity in Georgia.

A formal reception was also hosted at the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Georgia. Photo: Georgian Ice Hockey Federation.

The results scored in Cape Town are accompanied with ongoing work and plans for more Georgian state support for hockey, through a construction of a new ice rink in the seaside city Batumi and talks of opening another arena in Tbilisi.

Georgia defeated Turkey with a score 6:2 in their opening match of the World Championship before also overcoming Bulgaria, their major challenger for progression to higher level of competition, with a 5:3 result.

Svanidze’s players then eased past Hong Kong with a score 11:1 before suffering a narrow defeat to hosts South Africa with a score 2:4.

Georgia claimed the promotion spot after their win over Taiwan in the final match of the World Championship. Photo: Georgian Ice Hockey Federation.

The loss did not impact their eventual victory in the division however, after the team scored another emphatic win against Taiwan in the final match that finished 11:2.

In addition to the success in the division, team member Oliver Obolgogiani was named the player of the tournament, while Aleksandre Zhuzhunashvili collected the honours as the best goalscorer with 10 goals and nine assists in fixtures of the competition.