Teen champion Riner ready for clean sweep

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Teddy Riner feels no pressure as he aims to become the first junior to win all three major titles.

7 August 2008

BEIJING - France's world heavyweight judo champion Teddy Riner says he feels under no pressure as he targets a history-making win at the Beijing Olympics as the first junior to win all three major titles.

"I'm really looking forward to the start of the competition. I didn't think I would be so impatient," the Guadeloupe-born 19-year-old said.

"My body is telling me not to give in to anything but to give everything you have. And in my head, everything is going super," said the master of dynamic leg throws who weighs in at 129 kg and stretches to 2.04 metres.

The seven-day Olympic judo competition will start on Friday with his showpiece over-100kg class to be fought on the final day on August 15.

"I'm not feeling any pressure myself. I think I have an anti-pressure barrier around me."

Riner burst onto the world judo scene by winning the European and world titles last year at a time when he was the reigning junior champion in both categories. He was the youngest judoka to win the world heavyweight title at 18.

An Olympic gold would make him the first to win the three major titles in a row.

"It would be really amazing. It's something never done before," he said.

At the world championships last September in Rio de Janeiro, Riner beat the sport's top draw and biggest star Kosei Inoue of Japan before beating the rugged Russian Tamerlan Tmenov in the final. Inoue retired after failing to qualify for Beijing.

Now Japan's up-and-coming 21-year-old Satoshi Ishii looms as the major obstacle standing in the way of a Riner clean sweep.

Ishii, a Japanese national champion who has never fought on the big stage, won his spot in Beijing by beating defending Olympic heavyweight champion Keiji Suzuki.

Suzuki is here to compete in his favourite under-100kg light-heavyweight division.

"I'm not even worried about who will be in the draw. I don't care," Riner said. "I had the toughest of opponents at the worlds and I got through all of them."

His main rivals in Beijing also include Tmenov, Athens bronze medallist Dennis van der Geest of the Netherlands and two world bronze medal winners, Lasha Guyejiani of Georgia and Brazilian Juan Schilittler.

Riner said he has fully recovered from an injury to his right ankle.

He said he would skip the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday because he was "totally concentrated" on the task ahead.

"I will basically spend my time on recuperating, resting, getting massage, working on the computer and doing a little bit of judo," he added. "I'm going to stay in my room in the Olympic Village."

[AFP / Expatica]

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