Double Olympic champion judoka Teddy Riner has joked that triple gold medallist Tadahiro Nomura “will hear from me” if he levels the Japanese star’s record at Tokyo 2020.
Frenchman Riner is preparing to appear at a fourth Olympic Games, having won bronze at Beijing 2008 and gold at both London 2012 and Rio 2016 in the +100kg category.
Nomura became the first person to win three Olympic gold medals in judo when he won the -60kg event at Athens 2004, having already taken his place at the top of the podium at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
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He remains the only judoka to achieve the feat, and Riner revealed to Olympics.com that the pair have discussed the record “a lot”. “He can’t stop making fun of me,” the Frenchman said.
Riner admitted that his thoughts ahead of the Games have been dominated by thoughts of drawing level with Nomura, but he cautioned against getting ahead of himself ahead of the Games.
“I have to be careful,” he said. “The record is not the priority. I want to win the gold medal.
“If I got it, then I will take the time to see him and tell him that I know how much it means. But first, I need to do it for myself and go as far as I can to be able to do that.”
Riner added: “I don't want to put the cart before the horse but if I win it, he will hear from me (laughs).
“There is no other choice. We know how difficult it is to do something like that. Making the Olympics once is already so hard...If I win it, then I'm going to enjoy it!”
Should Riner claim a third successive Olympic gold medal then his achievement will be made even more special by the location of the Games.
Japan is the birthplace of judo and Riner says competing in the country is “incredible for every judoka”. The Frenchman won a gold medal at the 2010 World Championships in Tokyo, and the city has become a home away from home for him.
“It is special. It is where our sport started, there is a history,” he said.
“Any judoka or athlete who does a sport with a history in the country hosting the Olympic Games wants to succeed, create his own history, and leave a legacy.
“The first time I won a world championship title in Tokyo, I was thrilled. In Japan, in front of such a crowd, a knowledgeable public, it's great.
“Winning in Tokyo during this challenging period will have a double impact. It is a moment of pride as a judoka and athlete because I think many of us appreciate Tokyo.
“Personally, I love this city. This is where I spent a lot of time during training camps.”
Riner is the only judoka in the +100kg category to have appeared at every Olympics since Beijing 2008 and the 32-year-old believes his passion for the sport helps give him the energy to continue to compete at the highest level.
“I'm not the grandpa of the team,” he insisted. “You know, when you love your sport and want to achieve great things, you don't care about age. You just do what you love.
“That's how I see sport. Since Rio 2016, I have set new challenges. I have talked a lot about it, winning a third Olympic gold medal means a lot to me.
“We are a few days away from seeing it, now I have to give it my best and finish strong to do what is necessary on July 30.”
And, Riner says that his longevity on the mat can help in his quest for that third gold medal. “Experience is helping a lot during important moments,” he said.
“What I have learnt from the previous Olympics is going to help me but experience alone is not enough, I will have to fight hard.”
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