With eight podiums at the Tokyo 2021 Games, judo had been the most medalled discipline for France. An objective that is not at all illusory considering the twelve awards – six gold, one silver, five bronze – won at the Accor Arena from Friday to Sunday. The day of the triple Olympic champion could have taken a less joyful turn in the semi-finals, when Uzbek Alisher Yusupov (3rd in the world) inflicted an ippon on him. But a video examination changed the situation, awarding only a waza-ari to his opponent.
Still alive, with his back against the wall, Teddy Riner regained all his energy to first equalize with his opponent. Before delivering the decisive blow of a thunderous ippon. Just like in his best moments. Proof that, even though he competes rarely, the Frenchman with 11 world titles remains “the” reference.
And his ambition to win a 3rd individual Olympic title in Paris at the age of 35 (which he will turn on April 7 next) is now within reach. On the contrary. This is once again evident from this Paris Grand Slam. As evidenced by its leading figure, Clarisse Agbégnénou (-63 kg), radiant in her hard-fought conquest of the 7th title in the tournament.
A way for her to “make a statement and set things straight” – after her failure last November at the European Championships in Montpellier, where she finished at an unusual 7th place. The same goes for Shirine Boukli, gold in the -48 kg category, or Romane Dicko, crowned for the second time at the Accor Arena in the +78 kg, while Marie-Ève Gahié (-70 kg) finished in silver and Sarah-Léonie Cysique (-57 kg) in bronze. And, if there was any doubt, a new generation is already emerging with Faiza Mokdar, crowned at 22 years in the -57 kg, and Léa Fontaine (also 22 years old), winning bronze in the +78 kg. In this respect, some uncertainty remains.
Among women, only the -78 kg category has not yet produced a winner and the duel between Madeleine Malonga and Audrey Tcheuméo did take place at the Accor Arena. In the end, Malonga won on penalties after a non-combat, before going on to win a nice bronze medal. It remains to be seen whether this result will definitively settle the dispute between the two former world champions, or if the suspense will continue. Among the men, Maxime-Gaël Ngayap Hambou made a strong statement by also winning the bronze medal in the -90 kg, a performance that could allow him to take the Olympic jackpot at the expense of Alexis Mathieu (eliminated in the round of 16) or of the team Olympic champion Axel Clerget (eliminated in the 2nd round).
On the contrary, the -100 kg category is not much further ahead, with no French representative able to make it past the 2nd round.