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Who is… Teddy Riner

Teddy Riner
AP Images

Who is… Teddy Riner

The dominant French judoka known as "Teddy Bear" can add to his legacy with another Olympic gold medal.

Name: Teddy Riner
Country: France
Age: 27
Weight class: Men's heavyweight (100+kg/220.5+ lbs)

Accolades

  • 2012 Olympic gold medalist
  • 2008 Olympic bronze medalist
  • Eight-time world champion (2007-2011, 2013-2015)
  • Has not lost a judo match since September 2010
  • Ranked No. 1 men's heavyweight in the world



Teddy Riner at 2012 Olympics

Teddy Riner won his first Olympic gold medal at the London Games in 2012. Credit: IOC

Olympic history: Riner won medals at both of his previous Olympic appearances, earning bronze in 2008 and gold in 2012.

Olympic outlook: With a winning streak that spans nearly six full years, Riner will be heavily favored to get his second straight gold medal in Rio. Shoulder injuries have limited him to just two tournaments so far in 2016, but he won both of them. There are also several fighters in the Olympic field whom he has never faced – and therefore never beaten – before, including Japan's Hisayoshi Harasawa and Romania's Daniel Natea, who could potentially provide a strong challenge.

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Judo origins
Riner was born in Guadeloupe, an island in the Caribbean which is a territory of France, while his family was on vacation. He grew up in Paris, France and was enrolled in many sports as a child.

When he was 5 years old, Riner's older brother got him started in judo. While Riner excelled at a number of sports – soccer, tennis, swimming, golf, basketball and squash were just a few of the ones he participated in – judo ultimately developed from a hobby into a passion.

Riner was drawn to judo because it's an individual sport, and he was solely responsible for the outcome of every match. When he played team sports, a loss would often be beyond his control. Eventually he quit all other sports and focused his attention solely on judo.



Teddy Riner at 2012 Olympics

At 6-foot-8, Teddy Riner is an imposing force on the judo mat. Credit: IOC

Becoming a legend
Riner burst on the scene in 2007 by becoming the youngest judoka (18 years, 5 months old) to ever win a world title.

From there, losses have been few and far between for Riner. He has won a global title (world or Olympic) every year since then. His eight world titles are an all-time record, and he also holds five European championships for good measure.

Still, he strives for more. With a true equal yet to emerge, Riner sees an opportunity to become the most legendary judoka to ever step on a tatami.

"When I am invincible, I will stop. I don't feel invincible yet. I don't feel that I can stop. No. I have to continue. I have to make a mark on the history of my sport," Riner once told the Associated Press.

In that same 2013 interview, Riner also said that he would occasionally wrestle as many as five people at the same time in order to make his training more challenging.

Since London: Riner is undefeated in the four years since London. His streak of victories during that time includes three consecutive world titles from 2013-2015, as well as gold at the prestigious World Masters tournament in 2015. In April 2016, he won gold at the Samsun Grand Prix and the European Championships, showing that he's still the heavyweight to beat despite recent shoulder injuries.

Nicknames: Teddy Bear, Big Ted

Social media
Facebook: Teddy Riner
Twitter: @teddyriner
Instagram: @teddyriner

Riner will compete at the Rio Games on Friday, Aug. 12. Every judo match will stream live on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app.

Who is...

Learn about some of the top judokas heading to Rio 2016:

Kayla Harrison (USA) | Marti Malloy (USA) | Teddy Riner (FRA)

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