Teddy! They have Teddy in common!

Following a dynamic win in Dushanbe in May, Teddy reclaimed a world top 8 spot and just in time as the World Judo Tour events of this cycle were coming to an end. Perhaps there is a lot at stake for Teddy, a 3rd individual Olympic title within sight, just a few weeks away, and the possibility of becoming the greatest ever Olympic athlete in the history of the sport.

Big judo in Dushanbe!

He’s 35 years old and about to compete in his 5th Games. He’s never left without a medal but this Games feels different. He has the experience to know he can do it but that experience also reminds him of his bronze medals, of his opponents’ expertise; the likes of Bashaev (AIN) and Yusupov (UZB), who can throw him and have proven so in recent years.

Teddy’s answer to the final weeks of preparation and to the question of readiness? To compete 3 more times after Dushanbe and not in Kazakhstan or at the world championships, no. Teddy has appeared at the African Open in Marrakech, at the Madrid European Open and in just over a week he will compete in Lima, Peru, at the final points-scoring event of the qualification period. Only 100 points are available at each but Teddy had 3 empty slots and also a new member of his coaching team was in play, the combination of those has offered energy and possibility. Unfortunately one of those slots could only be filled at the Masters or continental championships and those events have already long passed. So why keep fighting?

With his team in Madrid. Photo courtesy of the EJU.

At each event, Teddy is practising, moving, throwing, enjoying and learning to live in his reputation more than ever before. There was also the question of Olympic seeding and a couple of wins at these Opens might have been enough to offer him a more favourable potential draw, perhaps away from Inal Tasoev (AIN) with whom he shared the gold medal at the 2023 Doha World Championships.

Teddy in Marrakech. Photos courtesy of the African Judo Union.

Teddy is not the only heavyweight to be keeping a watchful eye on the seedings. Unusually, Japan is also sending their man to Lima. Tatsuru Saito and Teddy Riner will meet in Lima and as there are only 30 points between them, Saito is likely to win enough points, with slots available, to jump Teddy and avoid both Tasoev and Teddy on his side of the draw at the Games. Clever!

The final stages of the qualification period are always fascinating. In each cycle there are last-minute stories. This one though is much bigger than qualification. Teddy is showing a refurbished approach and it’s fantastic! What will arrive in his judogi at the Olympics in Paris should not be underestimated. When Teddy enjoys judo, he is the most dangerous judoka on Earth and right now, in every corner of the world, Teddy is loving judo and it’s loving him back. He’s ready for Paris!

See also