The pressure hovering over his shoulders was colossal. Almost stifling. She ended up knocking him out. Double Olympic title holder, Teddy Riner was aiming for a third Olympic gold medal to enter the pantheon of world athletes with a bang. Perhaps too confident and sure of his achievements, probably still weakened by a knee injury, Big Ted saw the doors of paradise suddenly close in front of him.
Still, the road seemed almost drawn for him. He had perfectly negotiated his first two laps and therefore presented himself, in confidence, to face Tamerlan Bashaev, despite the beautiful pedigree of his opponent, European champion 2020 and world number one in the + 100kg category.
But the Russian was able (ab) to use cunning to thwart a perhaps unusually naive Riner. During the 4 minutes of the fight, he showed absolutely nothing, contenting himself to ward off the Frenchman’s futile attempts, at the risk of collecting two warnings. Frustrated by this non-match, Riner showed him signs of annoyance, alternating between dubious pouts, head movements and helpless glances at the referee.
When getting back on the tatami for the golden-score, the two men were therefore still not separated. But suddenly, everything went very quickly. Pushed to the ground by the sturdy Riner, Bashaev then has a last boost to propel the French on the back. The golden score only started 25 seconds ago but it’s already over. The verdict of the video judge is also final: waza-ari and victory for the Russian.
In the spans, it is consternation. Riner, him, is KO standing, struck down by an opponent who knew how to take advantage of the tiny window of fire which was granted to him.
As he pushed open the doors of the Nippon Budokan, the lair of judo, with the ambition that characterizes him, Riner leaves the tatami mats with his head bowed, going from dream to nightmare in the space of a few minutes.
And something tells us that the bronze medal, which he will try to aim for this Friday afternoon, will still have a bitter taste. Because a sportsman of Riner’s caliber is only satisfied with one thing: gold. Everything else is anecdotal.