France’s Teddy Riner can cement his place as judo’s “king” by winning his third Olympic gold in Tokyo — according to the only person ever to achieve the feat: Tadahiro Nomura.
The retired Japanese judoka said that he would love to see Riner match his own triple tally at Tokyo’s historic Nippon Budokan arena, and wants the French giant to “give a performance worthy” of his talents.
Riner won his second Olympic title in 2016 in low-key fashion, beating Japan’s Hisayoshi Harasawa in the plus-100kg final, after a defensive display that drew boos from the Rio crowd.
Nomura urged the French superstar to win with a touch more panache in Tokyo, even if it means Riner edging out his Japanese compatriot for the title again.
“It would be tough to see a Japanese fighter lose, but I’d also be happy to see Riner win the title,” said Nomura, who won his first Olympic 60kg title at the 1996 Atlanta Games and defended it in Sydney and Athens.
“My ideal would be for him not to be booed by the crowd, but to give a performance worthy of him as the king — to win his third title with strong judo,” he said.
Nomura said that Riner would compete with “wounded pride” after his almost 10-year, 154-match unbeaten streak was ended by Japan’s Kokoro Kageura in February last year.
That would make the French superstar “a scary prospect” for opponents in Tokyo, and defeat might have helped refocus his mind, Nomura said.
“He has a different look in his eyes, and his body is different — he’s sharp,” he said.
“He wasn’t in his best condition and he wasn’t prepared, and he lost. He knows that. It’s wounded his pride and he’ll be coming to win in Tokyo,” he added.
Nomura, still looking trim and toned under his sharp suit, has managed athletes and worked in the media since retiring at the age of 40 in 2015.
He knows Riner well, having first met him on a trip to France in 2007.
Nomura described the French heavyweight as an “awesome athlete” who is “very kind and charming,” and said that Riner’s 10 world championship titles make him “the king, definitely.”
Still, Nomura remains the only athlete ever to win three Olympic judo gold medals — at least for now.
The Japanese legend knows firsthand how difficult it would be for Riner to match his achievement.
Nomura said he expected Atlanta to be his first and last Olympics when he made his debut in 1996, but he grew in confidence as the competition progressed and ended up taking home the gold medal.
He was at the top of his game in Sydney four years later, but the pressure that followed persuaded him to relocate to the US in a bid to take the heat off.
There, he rediscovered his love for judo, and decided to move back to Japan to aim for a third title in Athens.
“Many times, people said Nomura was finished, asked how long I was planning to cling on or told me I should retire,” he said.
“It was a question of if I believed in myself, and how serious I was about wanting it,” he added.
Nomura said that Riner should already have won three Olympic gold medals, but points to his 2008 Beijing Games semi-final defeat to Uzbekistan’s Abdullo Tangriev as “the danger of knockout competition.”
Instead, he said that the “hallowed ground” of the Nippon Budokan, which hosted judo at the 1964 Tokyo Games, would be a fitting place for the Frenchman to finally complete his hat-trick.
“Just going to that venue gives me a special feeling — I’ve only seen video footage of Olympic judo at the Budokan, so I’m really excited to see it with my own eyes,” Nomura said.
“Riner has said he’s really looking forward to competing in Japan — the birthplace of judo. I’d love to see Harasawa against Riner in the final,” he added.
ANGELS BEATEN: The Astros broke through with four runs in the 12th inning in a 9-5 win that left them just three victories from clinching the AL West division title Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker on Wednesday said that a huge source of pride about his American League West-leading team is the way they play defense after right fielder Chas McCormick made two huge plays in their 9-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in 12 innings. McCormick made a one-hop throw to prevent Shohei Ohtani from scoring the potential game-winning run in the 10th inning. Two innings later, the Astros broke through with four runs, including a two-run double by Jose Altuve, to reduce their magic number to three to clinch their fourth division title in five seasons. “He has been working
The girls on Afghanistan’s national soccer team were anxious. For weeks, they had been moving around the country, waiting for word that they could leave. One wants to be a doctor, another a movie producer, others engineers. All dream of growing up to be professional soccer players. The message finally came early on Sunday: A charter flight would carry the girls and their families from Afghanistan — to where they did not know. The buses that would take them to the airport were already on their way. “They left their homes and left everything behind,” said Farkhunda Muhtaj, the captain of the Afghanistan
When she saw 13-year-old Brazilian Rayssa Leal win silver in the first-ever street skateboarding competition at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Giovanna Alves Farias only had one wish: to start flying around a skate park herself. “I nearly cried. Seeing a 13-year-old girl like me win a medal was so unexpected,” Farias told reporters. “Before the Games, I was already interested in skateboarding, but after seeing that, I told my dad: ‘Let’s go.’” Leal’s success is fueling a boom in skateboarding among women and girls in Brazil, who see themselves soaring to new heights, maybe even at the Olympics. Right after the Olympics
OUTCLASSED: Despite lacking height, weight and reach advantages, Oleksandr Usyk proved too elusive for Anthony Joshua and landed much cleaner punches Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday dethroned world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in his own backyard, with a stunning display that led to a unanimous decision in front of a sellout crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The 34-year-old former undisputed cruiserweight world champion put on a master class to silence the vast majority of the 67,000 fans who packed into the huge arena. Usyk — giving away height, weight and reach to the champion — proved too elusive for Joshua throughout an enthralling contest and landed the much cleaner shots, finishing with a flurry in round 12 as he went in search