Looking for a third gold medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, French judo star Teddy Riner will have five steps to take until the dream coronation. Perhaps the steepest course on his three previous appearances at the Olympics.
It’s next Friday, July 30, that Teddy Riner will face his biggest challenge: winning a third Olympic gold medal. In Tokyo, in the temple of judo, the star of the tatami mats, who admitted to having seriously injured his knee five months ago, will have a lot to do to triumph and enter a little more into the legend.
Teddy Riner will make his debut against Austria’s Stephan Hegyi. It was against this boy that he signed the last victory, completing his series of 154 consecutive victories. It was in February 2020 at the Paris tournament. Riner had won with difficulty and, behind the scenes, had lost his temper at the wait-and-see tactics of two-time European bronze medalist Hegyi.
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If it passes, his second-round opponent is already known. It will be the Israeli Or Sasson, seeded number 8. In Rio, Riner had muzzled the inclinations of this specialist in shoulder movements at the end of the fight. The result is four successes to nothing for Riner who has not seen Sasson (3rd in Brazil) since that day in Rio. The great judoka of the Hebrew state has never found his South American form again. If he is consistent in the tournament, he has not signed a podium in a major league since.
Georgian Tushishvili in half?
The third will be against the Senegalese Mbagnick Ndiaye or the Russian Tamerlan Bashaev who comes to these Games with the label of world number one. This rather small heavyweight and the bearded face was rolled up by Riner at the Masters in Doha earlier this year. Bashaev got out of a terrible national competition against Inal Tasoev to be selected for the Olympics. European champion last year, he won silver at the 2021 Worlds in early June in Budapest. He will be a big customer with his ardor and his flashes of judo.
In the semifinals, Riner will rediscover a great deal of knowledge. The Brazilian Rafael Silva nicknamed Baby despite his 170 kilos, double Olympic medalist, or the Georgian Guram Tushishvili. The Eastern man had almost won Riner on a sweep in the semifinals of the 2017 Worlds. Behind, the French had outrageously dominated during the Worlds all categories two months later. 2018 world champion in the absence of the Guadeloupe, Tushishvili is capable of the worst as well as the best. Great class when in shape, it is also sometimes light with high-level hygiene (cigarettes, alcohol).
Krpalek or Harasawa in the final
If he reaches his third Olympic final, Riner will be one fight away from matching Tadahiro Nomura and his three titles. Who to oppose him in the other side of the table? Czech Lukas Krpalek does first. 2016 Olympic champion in less than 100 kilos, he made the bet of going to win a second Olympic gold in a second category, a feat achieved only once. Big heart, big arms and big legs, the leader of the Czech Olympic delegation is excellent on the floor. Riner faced and beat him twice. In Montreal, he won in overtime. At the next tournament, in Brazil, he did not let him hope, locking him up with all his power to have him disqualified. Krpalek wore the red bib of world champion in 2019-2020 with his victory at the Budokan, in the absence of Riner.
Hisayoshi Harasawa is another contender. Riner’s dolphin in Brazil, he did not win a world title during the Olympiad. He was selected without a title and without having beaten Riner as his compatriot Kokoro Kageura became 2021 world champion and beat the Blue Colossus in 2020 in Paris. Harasawa lost in Montreal in 2019. He worked a lot on his physique on the end of the Olympiad. Is this the right solution? Answer July 30.