terça-feira, maio 06, 2008

French judo boosted as Olympic hopeful Riner picks up from Japan's Inoue

French judo boosted as Olympic hopeful Riner picks up from Japan's Inoue
12 hours ago

ROME (AFP) — It's out with the old and in with the new in the judo world following Kosei Inoue's retirement.
The 29-year-old Inoue announced the end of his career after failing to make the Japan team for August's Olympic Games in Beijing.
It was an ignominious end to an otherwise glittering career that has been wracked by injuries in recent years.
But while Inoue's era as the golden boy of judo comes to an end, there is one man who seems more than capable of filling the giant void that will be left by his absence.
That figure is the remarkable Teddy Riner, the new darling of French judo.
France is no stranger to heavyweight greats with David Douillet one of the most recognisable faces in the country.
And Riner is already well on his way to emulating Douillet's achievements.
Ironically, a great part of his reputation was made in beating Inoue at both the 2007 World Championships in Rio de Janeiro and this year's prestigious Tournoi de Paris.
In fairness to the Japanese, though, injuries have taken their toll on Inoue and since his shock defeat at light-heavyweight at the Athens Olympics in 2004, he has never been quite the same dominant fighter of before.
For four years Inoue was head and shoulders above all other fighters at all other weights, winning three successive world -100kg titles in 1999, 2001 and 2003 and also claiming the Olympic crown in 2000 in Sydney.
He was considered to be one of the all-time greats but then lost surprisingly to Dutchman Elco van der Geest in the Athens quarter-final and his aura of invincibility was shattered.
A long period of injury followed before Inoue made the inevitable step up to +100kg, a move that had long been the wish of media and fans alike in Japan.
However, it was not one that ever really took off.
Inoue had proved in winning the All Japan open weight competitions that he could mix it with the big men but his injuries had slightly diminished his powers by the time he actually moved up to the top weight.
In early 2007 he won the Paris Tournament and it seemed to herald the beginning of his much anticipated domination at that weight but that never materialised as he was beaten by Riner in the semi-finals in Rio.
A further semi-final defeat in Paris this year and then finally his quarter-final elimination to Yohei Takai at the All Japan championships proved to be the end for Inoue.
"I have already made up my mind that this will be the last year of my judo career," he said after his defeat to Takai in April, which ruled him out of the Olympics.
"I must give up the Olympics, because I was beaten. I did my best by putting everything into this championship. My favourite technique, uchi-mata, was counter-attacked, so I must accept the defeat."
What remains now is to see if 19-year-old Riner can match his hype. He has had an exceptional start to his career by winning both the European and world titles in his debut senior season in 2007.
He added the Paris Tournament title this year but was beaten twice at the Hamburg World Cup event a month later.
One thing he needs to avoid is second season syndrome which can strike in any sport.
An example from the not too distant history is Hungary's Antal Kovacs who was light-heavyweight Olympic champion in 1992 at 20 and then world champion a year later but it was not until 2001 before he would next win a medal at a global championship.
A similar fate befell French lightweight Annabelle Euranie who had a sensational 2003 at just 21 winning the European title and reaching the World Championships final.
But the next year opponents had worked her out and she could never again reach the same heights, announcing her retirement in January 2007 at the tender age of 24.
Those are the kind of fates Riner has to try to avoid if he is to cement his place as one of the true stars of the sport when he takes to the tatami in Beijing.
And he has set up his whole year around the Olympics, even skipping the European Championships this year to concentrate on the Games.
After his win in Paris he said: "I have only Beijing in my head and I now know what needs to be done to be ready."
It is the Olympics that really makes legacies, Inoue won one in 2000 and if Riner succeeds in August, he could be on the road to being as big or even bigger than Inoue ever was.

FONTE: AFP - (photo include)

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