Frenchman Riner looks set for more gold

France's Teddy Riner has not lost a match since 2010 which begs the question who — if anyone — can topple the judo juggernaut at the Rio Games.

Teddy Riner has been unstoppable in the men's +100kg, toppling everyone in his path on the way to seven world titles and Olympic gold in London.   -  Reuters

France's Teddy Riner has not lost a match since 2010 which begs the question who — if anyone — can topple the judo juggernaut at the Rio Games. Riner has been unstoppable in the men's +100kg, toppling everyone in his path on the way to seven world titles and Olympic gold in London. He also owns a world openweight gold.

“His size, his power and his experience,” Hans van Essen, editor-in-chief of JudoInside.com and a former European Judo Union official, said of the reasons for Riner's dominance.

Second-ranked Hisayoshi Harasawa of Japan has yet to fight Riner and Rio presents the tantalising prospect of them clashing. But the Japanese will be new to the immense pressure of competing on the Olympic tatami, giving Riner the advantage.

“This is where experience pays off and that's exactly why Riner will advance,” van Essen predicted.

In another marquee matchup after the Games begin Saturday, Kayla Harrison, the first American to win judo gold, will seek to defend her -78kg title against Mayra Aguiar of hosts Brazil and France's Audrey Tcheumeo, who both took bronze in 2012.

Japan look set to rebound from their dismal performance in London where they took just one gold and the men failed to win any titles for the first time since judo's Games debut in 1964 — an embarrassment for the birthplace of the martial art.

But boasting six current world champions, the team has fought to regain momentum before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, performing strongly in international tournaments.

“It's just a fact that the Japanese had a very strong comeback in this Olympic cycle and I'm convinced that they will be dominating the men's division in Rio,” said van Essen.

The women, however, will face stiff competition from a host of countries, including France and Brazil, with Kaori Matsumoto, Japan's sole judo gold medal winner in London, set to battle it out in a very competitive -57kg division.