LONDON (Reuters) - German Andreas Toelzer knows it would be a big surprise but says he can upset his giant rival known as “Teddy Bear” and win the Olympic heavyweight judo gold.
Despite being rated number two in the world, Toelzer knows he faces a tough task if he is to wrestle the title from the sport’s standout judoka France’s Teddy Riner.
Riner, who stands 6-feet-8 (2.04 meter) and weighs 289 lbs (131kg), has five individual world titles to his name at the age of just 23 and is already considered a judo legend.
“He is beatable. I beat him one time in my life and maybe I can do it here a second time,” Toelzer, 32, told Reuters after the draw for the Olympic judo tournaments were made.
”First I have to fight four fights to get him maybe in the final and it will be very hard to get him because the four fights first I have to do is very difficult.
“It’s not only me and Riner, it’s me and Riner and 30 other guys.”
The men’s heavyweight section is of the highlights of seven days of competition at London’s ExCel centre, although the sport itself might be overshadowed by an appearance by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a judo black belt himself.
British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that Putin, honorary president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), the sport’s governing body, would visit Britain next week and they would watch some of the competition together.
“We are very proud of him (Putin),” IJF President Marius Vizer told reporters. “I hope he will honor us in the case he comes to the Olympic Games and be our special guest.”
Vizer added that he hoped recent rule amendments, which had banned certain moves and taken the sport closer to its Japanese roots, and changes to the oversight of refereeing decisions would help prevent a repeat of the furor which surrounded the 2000 Olympic heavyweight final in Sydney.
That clash saw French judoka David Douillet take gold from Japan’s Shinichi Shinohara amid furious protests from the Japanese camp.
“I think the judo will more clear, more spectacular for the public and also easier to judge for the referee and avoiding all the animosity and possibility of controversy like sometimes in the past,” Vizer said.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury