Since turning professional in 2007, Teddy Riner has dominated the sport of judo. To date, he is a two-time Olympic gold medal winner, clinching the honor in both 2012 and 2016. Aside from triumphing on the global stage, the 31-year-old also has eight World Championships and five European Championships under his belt. Recently he won the IJF Masters in Qatar, but he cancelled his participation for Tel Aviv.
Riner's near-ten-year unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of Kageura Kokoro at the Paris Grand Slam last year. Despite the setback, and like the champion that he is, the Frenchman is using adversity to fuel creating an even better version of himself. So, with the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to start in June 2021, can he become a three-time gold-medal winner?
Defeat Sparked Change in the Frenchman’s Preparations
Prior to facing Kokoro, Riner amassed an incredible record of 154 consecutive victories. Following his unbeaten run, few can argue that he isn't the best heavyweight judoka of all time. However, his defeat to the Japanese competitor saw him fall short of setting the all-time record for consecutive wins. CNN.com states that Yamashita Yasuhiro enjoyed a streak of 203 victories between 1977 and 1987, while Pawel Nastula went 312 contests without defeat.
Unexpectedly, a shock defeat to Joseph Terhec at the French National Team Championships in October 2020 followed Riner’s loss to Kokoro. Perhaps the Frenchman suffered from a lack of sharpness, having taken a 20-month break from judo prior to those setbacks.
However, the adversity has lit a fire in the 31-year-old, who has since made changes to his behind-closed-doors routine. Following those defeats, he has parted ways with Yann Morisseau, his strength coach, and Nico Kanning, his sparring partner.. By his own admission, Riner declares that such changes relate to his Tokyo Olympic ambitions, as he doesn’t intend to make up the numbers.
At the Forefront of Growing Judo’s Mainstream Appeal
Because of the attention that Riner's received throughout his record-breaking career, he's been central to revitalizing judo’s global appeal. Not only that, but he’s also been the catalyst for expansion within the sport. In 2017, Paris Saint-Germain, the nine-time Ligue 1-winning football club, formed its own professional team. Following its launch, SportsProMedia.com reported that Riner signed a five-year deal with PSG.
Digitally, the Les Abymes-born competitor has also inspired a judo-focused breakthrough within the gaming industry. Following his Olympic success throughout the 2010s, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 video game became the first official title to feature judo since the Beijing title in 2008. Along with mainstream console games, the martial art is also becoming a popular theme at some of the online casinos listed at Bonus.ca. JackpotCity Casino, a popular bonus-offering platform, offers NuWurks’ Judo Ferret. The five-reel title features free spins and multipliers to provide light-hearted entertainment centered around the Japanese practice. It shows that visibility breeds more visibility.
Experienced Enough to Bounce Back
After his shock defeats, Riner’s backroom alterations appear to have made an immediate impact, as he won gold at the 2021 Judo World Masters in Qatar. At the last two Olympics, he’s claimed the top prize, and he’ll be hoping to recapture his dominance in Tokyo. Should he return to his best, then a third gold medal is a genuine possibility.