The GNOC have pledged for help for David Khakhaleishvili ©GNOC

The Georgian National Olympic Committee (GNOC) has launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the heart surgery of the nation's 1992 Olympic judo champion David Khakhaleishvili.

Khakhaleishvili is reportedly in a "critical condition" in a hospital in the capital Tbilisi.

Diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease affecting the heart muscle and its ability to supply blood, the 49-year-old is under medical attention at the Emergency Cardiology Centre.

Surgery is "the only solution" to saving his life, according to a report on the website.

Having won his gold medal under the Unified Team banner at the Olympics following the break up of the Soviet Union, Khakhaleishvili became the nation's first flagbearer at an Opening Ceremony at Atlanta 1996.

He was set to defend his Olympic title but was disqualified after failing to make the weight class for the competition.

GNOC has said Khakhaleishvili, who won three European judo titles between 1993 and 1996, requires a "complex and expensive" surgery abroad which is expected to cost around $250,000 (£192,000/€211,000).

Although his Olympic gold medal does not count towards Georgia's all-time medal tally, he became the first athlete to have his nation's national anthem played at the Games and with the flag in the background.

Khakhaleishvili also won world silver and bronze in Hamilton in Canada in 1993 and Chiba in Japan in 1995, respectively.