Teddy Riner, from Rio to RIo
Could Kosei Inoue imagine the mountain he would be facing in the first round of the World Championships in Rio on 13th September 2007 ? Probably… Mountains recognise one another. Teddy Riner, the 2,04m giant had still everything to prove at only 18 years old. Five world titles later, the Guadeloupean has built his global domination, climbing in a very credible way to the throne of best judoka of all times. A look back on this ascent, of which we don’t always see the top
©L'esprit du judo / Teddy Riner's last world championships victory.
Birth of a phenomenon
« One had to be psychic to guess what Teddy was going to accomplish when he arrived at the Aquaboulevard in 1995"says Pierrot Alain, his first teacher at the JC Bolivar. "As with all the children entrusted to us, we expected the best from him, whilst making him understand that the key word should remain fun. A concept he integrated quite fast and that enabled him to going to the dorr, (i don't understand)which is what happens quite often to those with obvious abilities. We also had to channel him and keep him interested. One day, when he was only 12-13 years old; he came back really enthusiastic from a basketball game with his brother Moses. I told him he had a choice to make - leaving him time to think about it. At the end of the session, an hour later, he came to tell me he chose judo, because he didn’t want to rely on anyone else to win.
He was only a « minime », but his application on the mat already showed how mature he was. « He always used to plan everything, never making(!) the same mistake twice," recalls Serge Dyot, who trained him at the PSG Judo (which became the Lagardère Paris Racing) until 2009. He was also very humble and kind, in particular whilst letting down his opponents in order to not injure them. But he was already a killer ! We made him work as a -81kg in order to acquire velocity and speed in his footwork - real baobabs - unusual among heavyweights. That is how he took a step ahead of his opponents and never lost it."
At fifteen, the big « cadet » joined the INSEP with a special dispensation, the Institute being reserved for juniors and seniors. « When he arrived, he was more a non-standard template than anything else," remembers Franck Chambily, the national coach. "We took care of him, we structured his weeks and took the time to let him evolve technically. He found himself with Bataille, Lecanu and Robin who saw « the young guy that arrived really strong » as the first one called him. Over the months, the three seniors would constantly strive a little to make him fall in training. "We lied to ourselves because it was difficult to find someone as strong so young" says Frédéric Lecanu, one of the few to have beaten him twice (France championships individual and team 2006). In 2005 he was still takeable, before becoming feared and untouchable in 2007.
Pierre Robin hamstrings still remember the semi-finals of the France championships in Dijon in January 2007. « He was already very difficult to manoeuvre, with a very strong grip in the hands. » Matthieu Bataille, who would fight him in the final remembers « a very hard fight, where his power and speed were really interesting, as well as his management of effort. Three weeks later, at Bercy, he had already taken over. "The Riner machine was launched to conquer the world judo.”
The draw did not spare the "rookie" Riner, offering first the Japanese Kosei Inoue, triple world champion and Olympic champion at less than 100 kg. A victory with a lot of suspense that launched him on the royal road. "More than for the senior European Championship, his career, still complicated for a second year junior, really impressed us," recalls Franck Chambily. "Teddy responds to challenges; he proved to us, at only 18, that only winning mattered.” To become the youngest world champion in history. And put on the floor the Japanese icon, who recognised his superiority. "He was worked almost exclusively with his arms. Since then he has made considerable progress in his feints, he is able to attack in two times more accurately and efficiently. He is undoubtedly the best. "Words of knighthood.
With his double European and World Championship titles, Teddy became in no time attraction No. 1 in France . For his return to competition after Rio, during the France team championships, Jean-Sébastien Bonvoisin gave him a strange landing during the semi-finals. "We still talk often about this fight, with a recovery support following the Harai-goshi ken ken, which allowed me to counter," remembers the one who at time wore the colours of Levallois Sporting Club. "But between us, this is definitely the past, the subject is closed. Personally, I was especially pleased to have this challenge to take Levallois to the final, no matter the opponent." The fact is that Jean-Sebastien Bonvoisin remains last tricolor to have dominated the five-time world champion.
The Uzbek obstacle
His first steps in the Olympic adventure were ambitious, but legitimate under the reign that began in February at Bercy. Where the Italian Paolo Bianchessi remembers "an arm and a hand as hard as iron, for a heavy influence on the Kumikata and constantly active.” The Tunisian Anis Chedly and the Kazakh Yeldos Ikhsangaliyev,, first obstacles in Beijing, will not contradict that view. Only the Uzbek Abdullo Tangriev would capsize the Guadeloupean just before the semi-finals. “ Teddy was young and inexperienced . Seeing him become world champion was impressive. It was very motivating to actually fight against this excellent technician who is always looking for ippon, a real judoka in his soul.” A broken heart of disillusion, but strong enough to bring back the bronze medal, and the rendez-vous for London was taken.
David Douillet’s successor was one the seven French (Riner, Maret, Pin, Demontfaucon, Robin, Bonvoisin et Bataille) invited to these Open world championships organised before Christmas in Levallois-Perret. The suspense, if there was any, was rapidly destroyed by a al-conquering Riner, always more precise and efficient, “he never makes the same mistake twice” says Dyot. The Japanese Yohei Takai and the Dutch Grim Vuijsters, who took the bronze medal from Teddy during the Kano cup in 2007 and the earlier Hamburg Super World Cup , were ejected from the competition without even existing during the fights. For the second time in the year (after the TIVP), Teddy beat Alexander Mikhaylin in the finals. He left a furious Russian, for an idyll that was just beginning.
Two months after arriving at the Levallois Sporting Club, Rine had to keep his Brazilian title in Rotterdam. “ It was not easy for him to get it back and to tell him that he could still move on," grants Christian Chaumint. He doubted about how he could progress until he’d had his first lesson with us. He then put himself 100% into the project that would lead him to London.” By way of preparation for the Dutch stage, Riner had difficulties in winning against the Egyptian Islam El Shebaby during the final of the Mediterranean Games. In Rotterdam, his very “eastern Europe” board will fit him very well, as would the Cuban Brayson in final. Three and counting.
From laughter to tears… After getting the world crown for the fourth year in a row, equalling the Japanese Ogawa, Fuji and Yamashita and David Douillet ,pTeddy goes for a fabulous double title (+100 kg and Open) in Tokyo. The flame keepers, Takahashi, Tachiyama and Kamikawa will not be the ones to deprive him of it. Bu last one, supported by a whole country, takes advantage of the tactical option chosen by the French team – who count on penalties, which will never come – to take the decision of the three referees in the final, to the great displeasure of the taken don(??) giant. « If he had deserved it, no problem, he complained to us at the time. There are no words to explain this, I’m empty, I don’t even know if I will go on with judo. » Bertrand Campargue, who wants to protect his foal, already know that this injustice will make him stronger. « He learnt a lot from this defeat, very painful for him, specifies Christian Chaumont, his coach in Levallois. "From then, he will never leave any space for refereeing decisions. » « This setback, as with the Beijing one, built him, says Chambily, developing to an extreme degree his dislike of defeat. »
What is better than getting back to the competition in one's own garden? The Paris-Bercy Omnisports Palace, where Riner collects gold medals every February since 2008, gives him the possibility. Possibilities actually, quite happy to have prevented, for the second year in row, the German Toelzer from taking the world title. Riner ascends once again to the highest step of the podium, with his mates of the French team at the expense of Rafael Silvas Brasil, full of consideration for the master of the heavy-weights. “ the difference between Teddy, a living legend in our category, and the others is based on three things: this judo efficiency, his physical condition and the trust he gained with all his great results. I consider myself privileged to be his contemporary and thus his rival. He’s my only objective when I train and I think it’s the same for the other +100kg. He is our common denominator because he is the indisputable n°1.
A stage is crossed
In London, nobody and nothing can stop him. Tangriev? Caught by the anti drug patrol for having smoked cannabis. Kamikawa? Darkened (??) from the second round. Without taking any risks, Riner will take his time (no fights ended before 5 minutes on the mat) to get to the final duel, where a fired-up up Mikhaylin who has not forgotten. the Levallois test in 2008 and three years after his lost final during the Tournois de Paris in 2009. A bitter and tense fight, during which Riner will not give an inch of land to his opponent, penalised three times. At 23 years, his cv has no weaknesses. That weakness apparently revealed by Andreas Toelzer will be in vain, the German being blocked by the Russian in the final square. " From now on, I have no more illusions: it will be very hard for me if I meet him again. " The beginning of an admission of impotence.
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