Judo Legend Teddy Riner Falls Short of Third Olympic Gold Medal, Settles for Bronze
TOKYO – Teddy Riner, perhaps the world’s most famous judoka, failed to clinch a third straight Olympic gold medal when he lost his third match on Friday morning.
He bounced back later in the day and won a bronze medal, beating Hisayoshi Harasawa of Japan. Riner fought to a stalemate in the first four minutes and needed five minutes in overtime before pinning his opponent.
For Riner, 32, who won gold in the over 100 kilograms category in London and Rio de Janeiro (and bronze at the Beijing Games), third place is a disappointment. He is probably participating in his last Olympics.
The 10-time world champion saw his nearly decade-long 152-game winning streak halted in February 2020. Riner dispelled any questions as to whether he was alive after fighting sparingly since the start of the pandemic. He won his first two matches with relative ease, beating Austria’s Stephan Hegyi by a ippon and Gold Sasson of Israel with a waza-ari.
But in his quarter-final match, Riner and Russian Tamerlan Bashaev battled to a stalemate in the first four minutes. About half a minute into the Golden Score period, Bashaev knocked down Riner from a corner. The fighters waited awhile while the judges reviewed the move, apparently because Riner had landed out of bounds.
Riner shook his head when the decision was announced and the referee pointed at Bashaev to confirm his victory, and left without speaking to the media.
Riner, who was unranked in the tournament, was aiming to win to share the record for most consecutive gold medals with Japan’s Tadahiro Nomura, winner in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
After the start of the pandemic, Riner lost over 50 pounds and focused on stretching to improve his recovery.
With Friday’s loss, Riner will face new questions as to whether he will retire. With Thierry Henry and Tony Parker, he is one of the most famous athletes in France. At 6 feet 8 inches and 300 pounds, Riner struck a striking pose. Known as “Teddy Bear” and “Big Ted,” he is a celebrity and has been the subject of a documentary.
With all of his success in the sport already, his legacy as one of the best judokas of all time is assured.
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