PARIS (Reuters) – Double Olympic judo champion Teddy Riner believes that staging the Tokyo Games in 2021 will put all athletes on an equal footing after the sports extravaganza was postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Frenchman, a gold medallist in the men’s heavyweight category at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, has been training at home since the government imposed a lockdown on March 17.
“Why would some be angry (that the Olympics were delayed)? People die. You have to give all athletes a fair chance and at that moment, all athletes were not on equal footing,” Riner, who turned 31 on Tuesday, told French sports daily L’Equipe.
“Waiting another year is not the end of the world, we just have to be patient. I can’t see how the qualifications would have been fair if the Games had been delayed to the autumn.”
Riner, who in February suffered his first defeat in 10 years, has been following a strict routine to stay fit.
“Two days before the lockdown I knew it was going to happen so I had (fitness) material delivered. I set up a room above my office and I work out twice a day – except Saturdays – without taking my foot off the pedal,” Riner said.
Riner lost to Japan’s Kokoro Kageura on Feb. 9 in the IJF Grand Slam in Paris, ending a run of 152 successive victories since 2010.
“It was a good thing that it happened there and not at the Olympics. It was a wake-up call. Clearly, I was lacking aggressiveness,” he said. “I felt my judo was good but you must remember that judo is a fight.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)