Teddy Riner plots comeback at May's Hohhot Grand Prix

France's double Olympic champion will make a decision after his 15-day training camp in Japan, but he's not worried about qualifying for Tokyo 2020.

Heavyweight judo king Teddy Riner hopes to make his long-awaited comeback later this month at the Hohhot Grand Prix in China.

The 30-year-old is taking a very careful approach and plans to re-join the Judo World Tour only when he feels at his best.

The double Olympic gold medallist has been out of action since clinching his 10th world title at the World Open in Marrakech in November 2017.

Riner was due to make his return in the Moroccan city in March, but coach Franck Chambilly told Olympic Channel he was not ready after just six weeks back in training.

The Frenchman, who also withdrew from the Antalya Grand Prix and the Baku Grand Slam, is currently in Japan with five young Paris Saint-Germain team-mates on a 15-day training camp.

Two members of the French judo team and his sparring partner Nicolas Kanning joined him in the trip.

Before flying out, he told PSG.fr, "I'll know more after my return from Japan, but I could enter the Hohhot Grand Prix in China at the end of May.

"I remain calm. I still want to qualify for the Tokyo Games as quickly as I can, but I am not worried, there are plenty of fixtures on the international calendar." - Teddy Riner

Back to the mat

Riner officially returned to training in early January with a view to competing in Marrakech.

After his year-long break, 'Big Ted' was carrying some excess weight which led Chambilly to focus initially on "base training".

Having missed that Moroccan engagement, Chambilly said they would decide when to sign up for a tournament after his two weeks in Japan.

"The focus will be on his form and his capacity to make his opponents fall and feel content." - Franck Chambilly on Teddy Riner's potential return to action

Riner admitted to PSG.fr he did not feel ready for Marrakech and that he was looking forward to going to Japan.

While in Japan, he will train at the world-renowned Kodokan Institute, and Kokushikan University which has produced four Olympic judo gold medallists including Satoshi Ishii, Riner's predecessor as heavyweight champion.

He said, "Japan is hard but this is often a very pleasant moment for me. There is a requirement there and I love that.

"In judo terms I feel very well and I've improved a lot physically. Now I'm back in the swing of training, the fitness niggles have settled down.

"I am like everybody else (laughs). After taking 2018 off, my body suffered at the beginning. But we have worked hard on conditioning and I can feel it."

In demand

Riner is judo's most recognisable figure and he has become something of a celebrity.

In April, he met Congolese president Denis Sassou Nguesso in the capital Brazzaville with the pair discussing a possible international judo event in the African nation.

"Congo is the country of my coach Darcel Yandzi, who has strongly inspired me during my career - the Frenchman told AllAfrica.com - Our project is about an event in Brazzaville with the best judokas in the world."

"Why aren't these major events organised in Africa? Myself, for example, I'm world and Olympic champion in my category and I have African roots."

The previous month, he was in the stands to watch the PSG football team host Manchester United in the Champions League.

Sitting next to 2018 FIFA World Cup winning head coach Didier Deschamps, the last 16 second leg did not go to plan as the English visitors scored in injury time to progress.

Changing plans

Last month, Chambilly told L'Equipe that Riner would probably be back in action in July.

He also indicated that the 30-year-old would only take part in the Mixed Team event at August's World Championships in Tokyo.

But with his charge hoping to bring forward his comeback, all plans appear up in the air at present.

When Riner does make his competitive return, he will be seeking to extend his unprecedented winning streak of 144 bouts stretching back to 2010.

He will also have one eye on retaining his +100kg title at Tokyo 2020 on 31 July and joining Japan's Tadahiro Nomura as the only three-time Olympic judo gold medallist.

Should he do so, three golds plus his bronze at Beijing 2008 would make him the most successful judoka in Olympic history.

Watch the IJF Grand Prix series on the Olympic Channel (regional restrictions may apply)

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