Teddy Riner will face Temur Rakhimov in the final at the Dushanbe Grand Slam

Five weeks after his victory at the Grand Slam in Antalya (Turkey), on March 31, Teddy Riner was back in competition this Sunday in Dushanbe for the Tajik Grand Slam. The +100 kg world champion aspires to gain points for the Olympic ranking list and thus enter the top 8 (9th to 14 points from 8th place before this Sunday) for the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, in order to be seeded and to avoid a too dense draw until the quarter-finals.

Exempted from the first round, Teddy Riner began his competition with a victory in front of Munir Ertug, whom he had never met in competition. The young Turk (20 years old) was still a junior in 2023 and had been a world bronze medalist. He paid dearly for his youth, when he launched into an action on his back that Riner was quick to return to his advantage to immobilize him on the ground. An ippon in the bag for the Guadeloupean (35 years old).

In the quarter-finals, Riner found Losseni Kone, whom he had dominated at this same stage at the Grand Slam in Paris on February 4, a competition which he had won for the eighth time. The German, seventh in “Europe” 2024, quickly set off to attack the Frenchman, but a little too hastily. Without panicking, Teddy Riner waited for the opportunity to send a follow-up hip movement to the ground. Ippon.

Towards a third Grand Slam victory this year

In the semi-finals, Teddy Riner faced Denis Batchaev, a Russian (19 years old) who was still a junior last year. Young but not without judo: in the round of 16, he got the better of Martti Puumalainen, European champion in 2023, who was ahead of Riner in the ranking (8th with 14 points ahead) before this Grand Slam. The elimination of the Finn will therefore be useful to the Frenchman, who would probably have liked to finally face him in official competition, just to “have him in his hands”, in the event of a duel at the Olympic Games this summer.

In the last four, Teddy Riner inflicted an ippon on Denis Batchaev on a paw kick (o-soto-gari) 1’32” from the gong at the first real opportunity. In the final, the Frenchman will face Tajik Temur Rakhimov, winner on penalties (a bit generous for some) in the semi-finals of Magomedomarov (UAE).

Riner beat him in the semi-finals of the 2023 World Championships in Doha, where he was crowned heavyweight for the eleventh time. The Tajik is ahead of Riner in the ranking by 300 points (6th). If successful, the Frenchman would pocket 1,000 points. If he wins, at the end of the program this Sunday, Teddy Riner would win his third Grand Slam, in as many outings in 2024, after Paris and Antalya. He will then be able to continue his preparation for the Olympic Games in Paris with complete peace of mind. And so, perhaps, consider not competing at the Worlds in Abu Dhabi on May 23.

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