French star judoka Teddy Riner loses search for third gold in a row

French heavyweight Teddy Riner’s quest for a record-binding third consecutive Olympic gold medal in judo ended Friday with a strange loss to Russian athlete Tamerlan Bashaev in the quarterfinals.

The 2.04m (6-foot-8) tall Riner lost 29 seconds in gold scoring when he fell on his back trying to throw the 1.75m (5-foot-9) Bashaev, who took credit for a waza ari on a sumi-otoshi throw after video review.

Riner, who has a beard and shaved head, appeared confused by the decision and did not speak to reporters afterward.

The decision put an end to the ten-time world champion’s attempt to match the Olympic record of three consecutive gold medals from 1996 to 2004 by Japan’s Tadahiro Nomura. He won a bronze medal in Beijing.

Riner will take part in a rematch against Brazil’s Rafael Silva in the afternoon session starting at 0800 GMT, but the best he could hope for would be a bronze.

“It’s not the hoped-for result… but there’s still an Olympic medal to be won,” Riner tweeted after the quarterfinals.

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

But the 32-year-old has finally become more touchable in recent years and his 152-game winning streak ended with a loss to Japan’s Kokoro Kageura in Paris in February 2020. He also recently revealed that he injured his knee earlier this year.

Riner has participated so little in the past two years that he came to Tokyo unplaced. He won his first two fights over Austrian Stephan Hegyi and Israeli Or Sasson, but both caused trouble for the once-dominant Riner before Bashaev put an end to the Frenchman’s gold medal ambitions.

Bashaev was European champion in 2020 and won silver at the world championships in Budapest last month before taking the biggest win of his career to date in the Tokyo quarter-finals.

The 25-year-old Chechen lost the final of the world championship to Kageura, who does not even participate in the Olympics. The Japanese team knocked over him to send Hisayoshi Harasawa, who also advanced to the semifinals.

In the evening session on the last day of the individual competition in Olympic judo, Riner takes on Rafael Silva from Brazil in a rematch.

( Jowharwith AP and REUTERS)

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