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Judo: Revenge and history on the cards for home-boy Riner

22 august 2011, 11:40
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French judo 2009 world champion Teddy Riner speaks to the media. ©Reuters
French judo 2009 world champion Teddy Riner speaks to the media. ©Reuters
French talisman Teddy Riner will have revenge on his mind when he bids to make history at the World Judo Championships here, starting on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old from Guadeloupe is one of four men to have been crowned world champion four times in the maximum weight categories and victory at the Palais Omnisport de Bercy would see him stand alone with five.

Japanese Yasuhiro Yamashita and Naoya Ogawa and countryman David Douillet are the only other men to achieve four world crowns and Riner admits beating them is a huge motivation, especially on home turf.

"I don't want to let down my fans and family. I really want to bring home that fifth (gold) medal," he said.

"Deep down I also want to leave my mark on my sport. Winning a fifth medal and surpassing the greats would be wonderful.

"I think about it all the time, like the Olympics, I think about that all the time."

In a largely successful career, two events stand out for Riner for their disappointing outcomes.

One was the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 when he fell in the semi-finals to Uzbekistan's Abdullo Tangriev by a penalty for passivity in golden score.

The other was last year in Tokyo during the World Championships.

Having won the heavyweight division (over-100kg) Riner lined up in the Open final against home favourtie Daiki Kamikawa.

Already then he was on the brink of history but a controversial judges' decision following 10 minutes of close combat went against him, leaving Riner fuming.

He vented his anger at the judges at the time and he was still seething five months later during the prestigious Paris Grand Slam earlier this year where he celebrated wildly after soundly beating Kamikawa in the final.

While Riner will be the star draw, in particular for the home crowd, many will also be keen to see the popular and pleasing Japanese.

Japan, the birthplace of the sport and by far judo's most successful nation, had been going through something of a crisis in recent years until the Tokyo worlds.

While their female fighters continue to be streets ahead of the rest, with the exception of China, the men had been gradually losing their number one status.

At the Olympics in Beijing they won "only" two gold medals and none at all at the 2009 worlds in Rotterdam.

But Japan have been through these crises before and they bounced back in Tokyo with four gold medals, to add to six from the women (from eight categories).

Men's national team coach Shinichi Shinohara, himself a double world champion, is cranking up the pressure on his fighters.

"I want my lads to come back with three gold medals (from seven divisions as the Open is not being fought) and that they keep in their heads that they won't be going anywhere else if they don't win in Paris."

Only the Japanese can be so demanding as for everyone else just a single gold medal is cause for celebration.

Apart from Riner and Kamikawa there will be some other intriguing battles to watch out for.

Greece's hugely entertaining reigning champion Ilias Iliadis will be up against his main rival at -90kg, Takashi Ono of Japan.

Brazil's Leandro Guilhiero and Kim Jae-Bum will do battle at -81kg while another Korean Wang Ki-Chun will be favourite at -73kg.

In the women's events the most entertaining battle to be expected is at -57kg where world champion Kaori Matsumoto of Japan will face Portugal's explosive Telma Monteiro and home fans will have their eyes on Gevrise Emane (-63kg) and Lucie Decosse (-70kg) as their main gold medal hopes.


By Barnaby Chesterman

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