“Teddy is in a class all by himself,” said U.S. coach Jimmy Pedro, whose fighter Kayla Harrison on Thursday took the 78-kilogram title, handing the U.S. its first judo gold medal in Olympic history. “If you wanted one sure bet on an Olympic champion, it would be on Teddy Riner.”
At 2.08 meters (6-foot-8) and weighing in at 140 kilograms (310 pounds), Riner is a true heavyweight. But he is renowned for his speed on the tatami and other judoka say he moves like a cat.
Riner won a bronze at the Beijing Games and says that the Olympic gold is the only medal he is missing.
German Andreas Toelzer will be trying his best to stop him.
Riner has beaten Toelzer at the last two world championships. But last week, Toelzer announced that he had beaten Riner once, and could do it again.
As the final day of the judo competition, Friday will be Japan’s last chance for any more medals.
On Thursday, the nation that invented judo was shut out of the medals entirely as both of its players were ousted in the preliminary rounds. So far, it has only managed one gold — a near disaster for the judo-crazed country.
No matter what happens, the attention will be on Saudi judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani.
After days of haggling, officials announced earlier this week that Shahrkhani will compete wearing a modified headscarf.
They offered no details, but officials said the compromise respected cultural sensitivities and met the International Judo Federation’s requirements that the headscarf not make her vulnerable to the sport’s aggressive grabs and strangleholds.
Saudi Arabia agreed to send women to the London Games on the condition they adhere to the kingdom’s conservative Islamic traditions, including wearing a headscarf. But judo officials objected, fearing it could make her vulnerable to the aggressive holds.
Shahrkhani’s bigger worry may be getting through her first fight. With a mere two years of training under her blue belt, she will be facing opponents with black belts.
Shahrkhani’s division is dominated by China’s Wen Tong, who won the gold in Beijing and also holds five world championship titles.
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