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“I wanted to cancel my participation”: even without “a big desire”, Teddy Riner remains the boss for the 2024 Olympics

He came, he saw and he imposed himself.

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“I wanted to cancel my participation”: even without “a big desire”, Teddy Riner remains the boss for the 2024 Olympics

He came, he saw and he imposed himself. Like a Roman emperor, even without real motivation, Teddy Riner won the Antalya Grand Slam on Sunday. His second major title won in 2024 in two competitions after his triumph at the AccorArena in Paris in early February. While some still dare to wonder if, at almost 35 years old (he will be on April 7), the three-time Olympic champion still has enough resources to dominate at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, the answer has been given. . Flashy, during a one-sided final where he dominated the Japanese Tatsuru Saito without forcing or trembling on a waza-ari. The very one that some specialists present as one of his most serious rivals for Olympic gold next summer, but who finds himself sent back to his dear studies...

A title all the more convincing since, throughout the day, it was not a big and spectacular Teddy Riner. As he himself admitted shortly after in the mixed zone: “Job completed. There was no big desire, I'm not going to hide it. At the last minute, I wanted to cancel my participation in the tournament. I gained a lot of fatigue because of the training, I think it showed throughout the day, even in the final. I rarely had this feeling of “not wanting to”. For me, that's not the objective. Physically it's okay, but if the brain doesn't follow... And then we know that each card we burn, the people opposite will study them. So in the final, I didn’t do anything.” He did nothing, but it was enough against a Japanese incapable of finding the solution once led. Like the whole day in fact where each of the Guadeloupean's opponents ran into a wall.

Thanks to this new title, Teddy Riner climbs to 3rd place in the world, with a total of points which should easily guarantee him a place in the Top 8 before the Games, which means that he should benefit from top seed status. avoiding a table as formidable as in Tokyo, where, unprotected by his ranking, he failed in the quarter-finals against the Russian Tamerlan Bashaev before recovering to win bronze. As a result, it is very possible that the judoka with eleven world titles will no longer reappear on the tatamis in official competition by Paris 2024.

Despite the prospect of the World Championships from May 19 to 24: “My coaches are able to push me to register but for the moment, the desire is not there. When I registered in Paris (in February), the desire was there. For Antalya, the desire was not there at all. I'm not going to spit on a medal, on points that make me 3rd in the world, but I need to recover, to take a good week off to be able to go back to work and be able to prepare well for these Games. And Riner insists: “Now I will be able to focus on this final preparation and stop thinking: we still have to fight, we still have to fight. What gets me up in the morning is the Games.”

An Olympic deadline during which he “hopes not to miss it”. A fear that could seem surprising for an athlete with such experience and such a track record. “Yes, but the Games are the Games,” he explains, determined. “This will be my fifth, so I know what it’s like. It's not a World Championship, nor a European Championship or a Masters, it's the Olympic Games. The world stops at that moment. It's difficult to make you understand that, because every time, when we talk about the Games, we say that it's wonderful, it's magnificent... It's true, but it's so much more. It’s a moment in our life that stops.” And there is no question for him to miss the opportunity to win a third individual Olympic title, after those in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016.

Even if, as he had already hinted on a few occasions, Paris 2024 might not be synonymous with the end of his career, he who is already thinking of Los Angeles in 2028. “I had a magnificent Olympics”, he says. “It passed quickly. There were great moments of training, preparation, I had a lot of fun. I still have a lot left under my belt, so why stop? On the other hand, after 2028, I think it will be tough. At some point, you have to turn the page and say goodbye to this wonderful world.” However, before the City of Angels awaits him a visit to the City of Lights next summer. And before that, an internship in Japan at the end of April. Without an official competition in May? To be continued…

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