At the age of 24 the towering Teddy Riner has already established himself as arguably the greatest heavyweight Judoka to grace the tatami.
The Frenchman is a six-time world champion – the first judoka to reach that feat – and last year he added Olympic gold to his long list of achievements.
Euronews caught up with the ‘Teddy Bear’ at the Sportel convention in Monaco.
euronews: How do you feel about being the only male judoka in any weight category to win six world titles?
Riner: It feels great, I’m flattered and proud because you must know there is a huge amount of work behind those titles. I want to thank my family because they pushed me to work and reach the place I am today. This is the message I want to deliver to young people. You do not become a world champion by doing nothing. You must work hard, believe in yourself, have a healthy lifestyle, respect your opponent and sport.
euronews: When you begin a competition how does it feel to be the man that everyone wants to beat?
Riner: That’s the other side of the work – to always question yourself. Every time I start a competition, I start from scratch, I am no longer the defending champion or I didn’t win the last competition. I will always look to produce something different, to do something new, by using a different skill because the same one will not work every time. You must be wise and analyse every little detail in order to win another medal.
euronews: Why do you prefer using leg techniques rather than using the shoulder?
Riner: The reason is very simple: I am so big that I cannot bend over as fast as somebody smaller than me. Therefore I need to use my legs. I am too big to use my shoulder.
euronews: Of course your skills have progressed since you first began practicing judo.
Riner: Absolutely, I have trained hard on my direction to move sideways, left-right, forwards and backwards.
euronews: Since your defeat at the world championships in Tokyo 2010 and despite many injuries, you have won everything – 50 fights since then.
Riner: You are right, this season has not been the easiest one because of my injuries. But I have won medals so I was mentally strong enough to win two titles despite all my problems.
euronews: After winning pretty much all there is to win are you still hungry for medals?
Riner: Yes, I want more, I want to win more medals and to make history in my sport.
euronews: How is it going with your political studies?
Riner: ‘‘Very good, I started my course again two weeks ago and everything is fine: I am happy and lucky to study at a great university to learn and use my brain.’‘