Judo

Teddy Riner feeling 'stronger' than ever ahead of Tokyo 2020 mission

The double judo Olympic champion is excited to chase a third gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021

By Alessandro Poggi ·

"I'm hungry, I'm starving... It's been a long time since I felt so hungry," Teddy Riner couldn't contain his excitement during a recent interview with France's Europe 1.

The double Olympic judo champion, along with four-time world champion Clarisse Agbegnenou, headlines the French squad selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, and his quest for an unprecedented third consecutive gold medal in the super heavyweight class has officially started.

"Everything has been planned for the D-Day. With the postponement of the Games, it's been a while now that I've been working on keeping my form, my best judo and my weight under control. It's been the longest race against time I ever had, but the wait was worth it and I'm ready to do everything to chase this beautiful medal," Riner said.

"We are very excited that we can go to these Olympics. We need to take it like a mission, it would like going for war" - Teddy Riner on RTL

The judo star recently turned 32 in his native Guadeloupe.

On the Caribbean island, the Frenchman is spending time with his family (his partner Luthna, his son Eden, and his daughter Isis) but is also following a strict training program, which involves a cardio session early in the morning, then some conditioning with his fitness coach and a second strengthening session after lunch.

"After that, I can breathe again," he said with a smile.

A preparation targeted to be at his best on Friday 30 July, the day where the +100kg Olympic title will be decided at the iconic Budokan in Tokyo.

READ: Everything you need to know about judo at the Tokyo Olympics.

"Stronger and better" for Teddy Riner

Riner hasn't competed since winning the Doha Masters in January and we probably won't see him on the tatami before the Olympics, as revealed by Larbi Benboudaoud, silver medallist at Sydney 2020, and high performance director at the French judo federation.

The 1,800 points earned in Qatar were enough to keep Riner in a qualifying position on the Olympic IJF rankings, although he's not sure to be top seed in Tokyo.

The win in Doha was also important for his confidence. That was his first event since the defeat to Kageura Kokoro at the Paris Grand Slam in February 2020, a loss that put an end to a streak of 154 consecutive wins.

"My last defeat helped me understand that I needed to work on some mistakes that I had probably overlooked. Today I feel stronger and better under every aspect," the 2.02m-judoka told RTL.

After losing 26 kg in weight, a slim and refreshed Riner feels like he's in the form of his life.

"I felt like new, in a new body, in a new state of mind," he said about his last competition.

"I am more experienced now, so yes, I feel stronger and better compared to when I was younger.

"But it's not enough to say it or to feel it, I need to show what I can do."

Riner's goal in Tokyo: two medals

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be the fourth Games for the 10-time judo world champion, who made his Olympic debut in Beijing when he was 19.

In 2008 he clinched bronze, before taking back-to-back golds in London and Rio. In Brazil, he was also France's flag bearer.

Only 11 Frenchmen (and two French women) managed to win three titles at the Summer Olympics and Riner is eager to join this restricted group, which includes former slalom canoeist Tony Estanguet.

While Japan's Nomura Tadahiro won three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the -60kg class, no French judoka has ever been Olympic champion three times.

"In Tokyo I have the chance to win two medals, because the team event will make its Olympic debut the day after my individual competition.

"The first goal is to win a gold, the second is to try to reach a final and maybe win a gold medal with this beautiful French team. May the judo force be with me!" said Riner.

Teddy RINER

France
Judo
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Number of medals

3 Olympic medals

2
1

Olympic Games

3 Olympic Games