French heavyweight Teddy Riner’s quest for a record-tying 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 into golden score when he fell onto his back as he attempted to throw the 1.75m (5-foot-9) Bashaev, who was given credit for a waza ari on a sumi-otoshi throw after video review.
Riner, sporting a beard and a shaved head, appeared to be confused by the decision, and he didn’t speak to reporters afterward.
The decision ended the 10-time world champion’s attempt to tie the Olympic record of three straight gold medals set by Tadahiro Nomura of Japan from 1996 to 2004. He won a bronze medal in Beijing.
Riner will take part in a repechage contest, facing Rafael Silva of Brazil in the afternoon session that kicks off at 0800 GMT, but the best he could hope for would be bronze.
“it’s not the hoped-for result… but there’s still an Olympic medal to be won,” Riner tweeted after the quarterfinal.
Physically intimidating and charismatically competitive, Riner was the most dominant judo player of the past decade. He went 10 years between defeats while racking up annual world championships against opponents unable to deal with his size and athleticism.
But the 32-year-old finally became more touchable in recent years, and his 152-bout winning streak ended in February 2020 with a loss to Kokoro Kageura of Japan in Paris. He also recently revealed he had injured his knee earlier in the year.
Riner has competed so infrequently over the past two years that he came into Tokyo unseeded. He won his first two bouts over Austrian Stephan Hegyi and Israeli Or Sasson, but both gave the once-dominant Riner trouble before Bashaev ended the Frenchman’s gold medal aspirations.
Bashaev was the European champion in 2020, and he won silver at the world championships last month in Budapest before recording the biggest win of his career to date in the Tokyo quarterfinals.
The 25-year-old Chechen lost the world championship final to Kageura, who isn’t even fighting in the Olympics. The Japanese team skipped over him to send Hisayoshi Harasawa, who also advanced to the semifinals.
Riner faces Rafael Silva of Brazil in repechage in the evening session on the final day of individual competition in Olympic judo.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)