Olympic Games

France’s star judoka Teddy Riner settles for bronze in Tokyo

French heavyweight Teddy Riner took the bronze medal in judo on Friday when he beat Hisayoshi Harasawa of Japan, hours after losing his quest for a record-tying third consecutive Olympic gold medal with a strange loss to Russian athlete Tamerlan Bashaev in the quarterfinals.

France's Teddy Riner, left, and Japan's Hisayoshi Harasawa compete in the judo men's heavyweight bronze medal.
France's Teddy Riner, left, and Japan's Hisayoshi Harasawa compete in the judo men's heavyweight bronze medal. © Jack Guez, AFP

The 2.04m (6-foot-8) tall Riner lost the quarterfinal 29 seconds into golden score when he fell onto his back as he attempted to throw the 1.75m (5-foot-9) Bashaev, who was given credit for a waza ari on a sumi-otoshi throw after video review.

Riner, sporting a beard and a shaved head, appeared to be confused by the decision, and he didn’t speak to reporters immediately afterward.

The decision ended the 10-time world champion’s attempt to tie the Olympic record of three straight gold medals set by Tadahiro Nomura of Japan from 1996 to 2004. He won a bronze medal in Beijing.

“Of course, there is frustration. You have to keep in mind my age, which counts for a lot. I'm happy with my performance. It’s my fourth Olympic medal at 32,” Riner said on French national television.

Physically intimidating and charismatically competitive, Riner was the most dominant judo player of the past decade. He went 10 years between defeats while racking up annual world championships against opponents unable to deal with his size and athleticism.

But the 32-year-old finally became more touchable in recent years, and his 152-bout winning streak ended in February 2020 with a loss to Kokoro Kageura of Japan in Paris. He also recently revealed he had injured his knee earlier in the year.

Riner has competed so infrequently over the past two years that he came into Tokyo unseeded. He won his first two bouts over Austrian Stephan Hegyi and Israeli Or Sasson, but both gave the once-dominant Riner trouble before Bashaev ended the Frenchman’s gold medal aspirations.

Bashaev was the European champion in 2020, and he won silver at the world championships last month in Budapest before recording the biggest win of his career to date in the Tokyo quarterfinals.

The 25-year-old Chechen lost the world championship final to Kageura, who isn’t even fighting in the Olympics. The Japanese team skipped over him to send Hisayoshi Harasawa, who also advanced to the semifinals.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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