Judo: Madeleine Malonga takes a big step towards Paris 2024, Teddy Riner barely wins in the final in Turkey

Once through the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam in Antalya (Turkey), Sunday March 31 around noon, Madeleine Malonga brandished an angry fist

Judo: Madeleine Malonga takes a big step towards Paris 2024, Teddy Riner barely wins in the final in Turkey

Once through the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam in Antalya (Turkey), Sunday March 31 around noon, Madeleine Malonga brandished an angry fist. From then on, it was in fact certain that the judoka would achieve a better performance than her compatriot Audrey Tcheuméo, a week earlier, at the Grand Slam in Tbilisi (Georgia). However, the two French women have been fighting for months to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in the -78 kilo category, the only one which does not yet have a designated French fighter. This Sunday, Malonga, silver medalist in Tokyo in 2021, pushed her advantage to the final, where she beat Alina Boehm, double European champion.

The determination of the 30-year-old Frenchwoman, licensed at Etoile sportive du Blanc-Menil (Seine-Saine-Denis), was evident from her first fight, Sunday morning. By stopping the Lithuanian Migle Julija Deudenaite, she won in 1 min 24 sec. In the next round, Malonga's combativeness left the slender Russian Antonina Shmeleva – entered as a neutral individual athlete – without a solution (elimination in 1 min 45 sec after three faults for non-combativity).

During the quarter-final so important in his long-distance fight with Tcheumeo, Malonga crossed paths with the Portuguese Patricia Sampaio, 24 years old and 11th in the world rankings. And here again, the Frenchwoman, who is in 13th place, used her tone to send her opponent to the mat, on her back. Ippon in 45 seconds.

La revanche de Julia Tolofua

In the semi-final, Malonga got rid of Anna-Maria Wagner, 3rd in the world ranking in the category and bronze medalist at the Beijing Olympics. Another German, Alina Boehm, European champion in 2022 and 2023, was waiting for her in the final. And here again, thanks to extreme determination, the Frenchwoman did not go into detail. In just 42 seconds, his opponent was defeated.

We cannot be certain that Malonga has definitely won the right to represent France at the next Olympics. The decision will be up to his federation. One thing is certain, Malonga could not do anything more or better to display his (great) ambitions.

“I have immense pride, because the Olympiad was very difficult,” she explained to Agence France-Presse after her victory. A year ago, I knew that by not making the World Championships [Audrey Tcheuméo had been chosen and had collected the silver], to get this Olympic qualification, we were going to have to get up very, very early. And I got up very, very early, I trained very hard, I questioned myself and I fought until the end and every time out it was difficult. Mentally, it’s been difficult for ten months, but I haven’t given up.”

Returning to the federation's decision not to select her directly after the Paris Tournament, in February, where she beat Tcheuméo, Malonga indicates: “It was such a blow to me (…) that I said to myself “Ah Yeah ? OK, no worries, I’ll select myself.”

Julia Tolofua was not selected for the Olympic Games in 78 kilos. Which did not prevent her from winning the Antalya Grand Slam on Sunday for her return to competition after an injury and this disillusionment.

Having undergone surgery on her right shoulder in September 2023, the Frenchwoman had not stepped on the tatamis in competition since her defeat against her compatriot Romane Dicko in the final of the Budapest Masters in August of the same year. Since then, she has seen Dicko, an Olympic bronze medalist in Tokyo and 2022 world champion, be selected for the Games.

Tolofua may not turn the page directly after this Sunday, but this great tournament can definitely help him. The 2023 world vice-champion achieved a flawless performance, five victories in five fights without going to overtime. She beat the Chinese Su Xin in the final. With tears in her eyes, relieved, she pointed to her head with her finger after her victory, as if to emphasize her mental strength.

Teddy Riner narrowly

Teddy Riner already knows that, barring a physical problem, he will be present at the Arena Champs-de-Mars next summer. His presence in Antalya this Sunday responded to another problem: testing himself before the Games and putting himself back in the world rankings to benefit from a theoretically less difficult table during the Olympics.

In the morning, Riner swept away Bahraini Azamat Chotchaev in 52 seconds. He then dismissed the 27-year-old Dutchman Jur Spijkers and then the Brazilian Rafael Silva, 36, on disqualification after three penalties (hansoku make). In the semi-final, the Frenchman brought down 24-year-old German Erik Abramov, earning a point (waza-ari), without scoring ippon. He then won again on hansoku make.

In the final, the Frenchman faced the Japanese Tatsuru Saito, 22, silver medalist at the Worlds in 2022 and qualified for Paris 2024, in a preview of the big Olympic event this summer. During this fight, the 34-year-old Guadeloupean will have had confirmation that nothing will be easy for him during the Olympics. Before countering his opponent with 30 seconds remaining, Riner flirted with elimination after being penalized twice. Once in the lead on the scoreboard, the Frenchman, Olympic champion in 2012 and 2016, managed his advantage, leaving Saito frustrated at having come so close to victory.