Teddy Riner: "If I have to step on the mat with a broken leg at the 2024 Olympics, I will"

" How are you ?
How are you. A little disappointed not to be able to go to these World Championships (October 6-13 in Uzbekistan). We had done what was necessary in terms of care, prevention to cure as well as possible. But given the injury that it was and the operation that I was able to avoid, I'm still happy to be told that it's attached, that it's still in the healing phase, that two ligaments are fine but the third is not yet fine. We stay positive. The goal for me is the Olympics in Paris. So we are not going to rush, we are in a season where there are two World Championships (in October, then May 2023 in Qatar). Don't rush, my “target” is really the Olympic Games in 2024: don't miss this meeting, be good.

What exactly is your right ankle suffering from?
I would like to understand the technical terms of the doctors. We're going to say a big sprain. Initially, it was a ligament that was affected, which we had seen on the images. Finally, it was several, a bit much in front, on the side and behind.

How did you get this injury at the end of August during an internship in Morocco?
The last training fight, on the last 20 seconds, I do an o-soto-gari, the partner goes to fall except that I realize that I will take the pillar of the room so I move aside to dodge the pillar except that the action is launched. The partner who is in the air falls on my ankle. And crack.

Did you understand that it could be serious?
I actually didn't want to touch my ankle right away because I heard the crack and it scared me. When I was told, no bones came out, it's not broken, I was relieved. I said I heard a crack, there is something, they explained to me that a ligament makes that noise.

How do you welcome this injury? There was the one on one knee before the Tokyo Olympics and now this one..
That's something else. What happens with the staff stays in the staff. Always understand the why and how. I like to understand what is happening to me. If it happened, it is no coincidence. But don't repeat the mistakes of previous seasons because I wouldn't want that to happen to me, one month, three months, six months before the Games. I don't want to miss this meeting and I will do what it takes to be the best.

You had regained a good momentum by winning the Budapest Grand Slam on July 10, after a year without competition. Does that stop you in this momentum?
It is better that that interrupt me now than on this big deadline that are the Olympics. I've already managed to get everything I wanted, so it's a bonus to be in Paris, at home and hoping to win gold, twice (individual and team), it's a nice objective. If that doesn't happen, I won't be disappointed. The main thing is to give everything I have, to do what it takes. I know it is possible. I'm not worried, we're still two years away, that's a lot, it's also not much.

“I will get back on the mat for the Doha Worlds (in May 2023)”

When will you resume judo?
The doctors told me (Monday) five weeks.

And in terms of competition?
The schedule has not yet been made. What I can tell you is that I will get back on the safe mat at the Doha Worlds (in May 2023). It's better to get on those and keep a title longer than get on those (in October) and keep it very short. That's the joke!

Will there be other competitions before?
Sure. But the 2022-2023 season will be the Worlds, the big competition. Before December, there is a Master.

There is also the Euro by mixed teams in Mulhouse, on November 12, which you have never won...
Without running after the clock, why not if I'm fine. But I go up to these Championships only if there is team 1. It's the only title I miss. Physically I can because, since the injury, I have always continued to train, so ok it's only the upper body but when you can work the left leg, you do it. As soon as the doctors tell me ok for the right, we will start.

After your package, Joseph Terhec is the holder in +100 kg on the October Worlds who aspires to take the place of number 1. Does it annoy you to have substitutes who have long teeth?
No, on the contrary it is very good. All my career, I was told that I was protected. Protect what? When I am world champion and I do it again? So we will be able to see all the people who say “I am better or I can do it”. There is an opportunity there, we will see.

Over time, are you more fragile?
I won't say that. When I discuss with my shrink who notes everything, there is not a competition where I was not injured. Judo is a traumatic sport so we have to deal with injuries. When you reach 33, you have to be a little more careful, not to take these things lightly. When I was younger, I could have exceeded medical orders. Today, I listen to them a lot more. Because the goal is the Olympics, and I don't want to miss that.

"The goal is Paris 2024. I don't want to miss it"

Can it become a headache in your preparation?
No, that's an accident that should never have happened. You will tell me, it is still a World Championship, yes but I have ten (titles). There will be others. In May, there is one, that's good.

Are you afraid that by 2024 your body will tell you to stop?
But my body is already saying stop but I don't listen to it. I'm optimizing with the staff to continue until 2024. But I've been on the (judo) mats for more than 15 years so my body creaks, expresses itself as it can except that I mute it.

Are you worried that your body will tell you to stop before Paris 2024?
No. He will say it but we will not listen to him and we will go. If I have to step on the mat in 2024 with a broken leg, I will. Often my son says to me “dad can you continue until 2032? “Listen dad, it will push until 2024 and we will talk about it again! It's a pleasure but there is also the body, the moment when you want to turn the page, to be at home with my children, to take care of them. I don't want to miss moments in my children's lives because I'm in the four corners of the world on an internship. You have to be a little less selfish at some point.

So you're not talking to us about 2028 anymore?
(Surprised to be reminded of what he announced last summer) 2028 is still in the back of my mind and if I have to change my way of seeing things with children, we will adapt. But I live again by going to the four corners of the world to seek the best. It's been a long time since I've had this level of excellence in training, since I've felt such pleasure. »

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