Teddy Riner won a record-equalling seventh title as he took the gold medal in the over-100 kilogram, with Lukas Krpalek making history for the Czech Republic at the World Judo Championships here today.
At the age of only 25, the giant Frenchman equalled the feat of Japanese legend Ryoko Tani by landing his seventh World Championship gold medal, once again blowing away all the opposition as he stormed through the competition.
Meanwhile, Krpalek won his country’s first ever judo world title by claiming the under-100kg crown as Idalys Ortiz earnt Cuba the women’s over-78kg gold, winning all four of her fights by ippon.
Riner and Ortiz were, predictably, voted the best overall fighters of a Championships which have proved a stunning success with sold-out crowds and a memorable atmosphere.
But, once again, it was all about the incomparable Riner, who is well on his way to rewriting the record books.
Riner later revealed his biggest concern had been the current political situation between hosts Russia and their neighbour Ukraine.
“It’s a great day, I was at my best today,” he said.
“It’s been a great World Championship,” he said.
“I was very concerned given what we were hearing on the television between Ukraine and Russia.
“In the end, they really pulled out all the stops to put on the tournament.”
Already the youngest ever men’s world champion seven years ago at just 18 years and five months with his victory at the 2007 Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Riner has now matched the all-time record of seven crowns set by Tani in the women’s under-48kg division from 1993 to 2007.
Although one of Riner’s titles came in the Open division at Levallois-Perret in 2008, he could still continue for another decade should his body hold up to the rigours of international judo.
The Guadaloupe-born fighter, unbeaten since 2010, including winning the Olympic gold at London 2012, defeated Japan’s Ryu Schichinohe in the final by penalties.
He, however, had to suvive a late scare when his opponent managed to throw him to the ground, but without registering a score.
Even so, Riner was critical of his opponent.
“In the final I knew what I had to do but I’m very disappointed because when you watch a world final and you see one fighter going down to his knees and refusing to fight, it’s annoying and I think you could see that,” he said.
“But you have to take stock.
“I look at this medal and to tell the truth, I’m happy.
“I would have liked to express myself in the right way in the final but I was prevented from doing so.
“I’ll say it, I’m a bit frustrated.”
It was the 6ft 8in 140kg fighter’s 65th win in a row since a controversial defeat to Japan’s Daiki Kamikawa at the 2010 Open Championships in Japan.
Kamikawa was beaten by Russia’s Renat Saidov, who was thrown for ippon by Riner in the quarter-finals but went on to take bronze, alongside Brazil’s Rafael Silva.
They beat Brazil’s David Moura and The Netherlands’ Roy Meyer respectively.
Riner has already set his sights on an eighth title at next year’s World Championships in Astana.
“The next step will be the eighth world title,” he said.
“I need to keep going and working to raise my judo level.
“The Japanese seems to begin to find solutions against me, so I need to work on that but tonight I am enjoying my title.”
Krpalek, the world number one and reigning European champion the last two years, beat Cuba’s Jose Armenteros to take the gold medal.
In the semi-final 23-year-old Krpalek knocked out Russia’s Olympic champion Tagir Khaibulaev and erased the memory of being one of the Russian’s victims in London when he got caught in ne-waza.
Krpalek took out Russia’s last hope of an individual gold medal by a single shido penalty which was handed to the Russian for negative gripping one minute into the contest.
Krpalek bested former Junior world champion Armenteros, a big surprise after a superb breakthrough on the elite senior stage.
But here he was trapped with a tate-shiho-gatame for 20 seconds.
“I was already a two-time bronze medallist at the World Championships,” said Krpalek.
“Today I was the top seeded athlete but I didn’t consider myself as the favourite because seven to 10 athletes were able to win today.
“It was not an easy win, especially against the Olympic champion.”
Germany’s Karl-Richard Frey beat Khaibulaev for bronze while Moldovan-born Ivan Remarenco, representing the United Arab Emirates (UAE), won the other bronze.
It was the UAE’s second medal of the Championships after another naturalised Moldovan, Victor Scvortov claimed a historic first medal for the country, a bronze, on Wednesday in the under-73kg division.
In the final women’s category, Olympic champion Ortiz claimed her second successive world title, beating Maria Altheman in the final, just as she did 12 months ago in Rio de Janeiro.
Ortiz won by ippon with a devastating ura-nage after 71 seconds.
“The Olympic Games and the World Championships are the most important events in sports and in my life,” said the 24-year-old.
“So I am really happy for having won my second world title in a row.
“My strongest opponent today was me. I was not totally confident, especially because this year I was not even able to win in Havana, on the occasion of the Grand Prix.
“But winning at the Worlds is something else.”
Japan’s Megumi Tachimoto and Emilie Andeol of France took the bronze medals, beating German pair Jasmin Kuelbs and Franziska Konitz respectively.
Japan topped the medals table – as they do almost every time – with four gold, two silver and three bronze.
France were the only other country to win more than one gold medal, taking two, a silver and four bronze.
Cuba and Brazil were equal third in the table with a gold, silver and two bronze each.
Hosts Russia won eight medals, second only to Japan, but six of those were bronze and no gold, while 25 different nations got on the podium.
Tomorrow’s final day is reserved for the team competition, an event that is expected to be watched by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Honorary President of the International Judo Federation.
Watch the latest action on Judo TV here.
This article first appeared in Inside the Games and has been reproduced with permission. The original article can be viewed by clicking here.