Israel’s Olympic two times medal winner Ori Sasson announced his retirement. According to the Israel Judo Association, the 31-year-old announced his retirement at a press conference on Thursday. Sasson who was considered to be a leading candidate for defeating the great Teddy Riner, is set to retire from competition, is expected to receive a role within the association.
In his career, Sasson has amassed two Olympic bronze medals (one for Individual and one for the Mixed Team event), two European silvers and five IJF World Tour gold medals. Strangely, he has no medals of any color at the World Championships. In seven campaigns spanning 2013-2021, he never managed to make it to the medal podium.
As an athletic heavyweight fighter who was able to do drop techniques, Sasson was long thought to be the one who might be able to slip underneath Riner and throw him. In fact, he nearly did just that at the 2016 Rio Olympics semifinal but in the end Riner won out.
Sasson’s good performance in Rio, where he ended up with a bronze, kept alive the tantalizing prospect that he might be able to break Riner’s record run of undefeated matches. But Riner chose not to compete much after Rio. From 2016 to 2020, these two never got another chance to meet on the mat.
Perhaps it is fitting that Sasson’s last two international matches were with Riner, though. In 2021, they fought twice at the Tokyo Olympics, once in the individual event and once in the team event. Both times he lost to Riner. It would have been interesting though if in the years right after Rio 2016, Sasson had gotten a chance to fight his biggest rival.
Sasson is winner of European Games silver in Baku +100kg and in Kazan in 2015. In total he collected 24 World Cup medals which included 5 Grand Prix events. He opened 2019 with a victory at the Grand Prix in Tel Aviv and took gold in Budapest that year, and again gold in Tel Aviv in 2020. He won Grand Prix gold in the cities of Tbilisi (2016) and Tashkent (2017) as well. Sasson won European events such as gold in Prague, Tbilisi, Warsaw and Tallinn.
At the Olympic Games in Rio he finished with bronze but in Tokyo in 2021 he couldn’t reach the quarter finals and took a ninth place. At World Championships he was never successful in 7 events between 2013-2021. His highest position on the IJF World Ranking was third place in 2016 and was positioned in the top ten between 2016 and 2020.
The Olympic Games team event and in particular his contest against 10-times world champion Teddy Riner was his last international match. He also fought Riner in the individual tournament in Tokyo. At the European Championships in Lisbon in 2021 he fought against the current Olympic Champion Lukas Krpalek. Sasson fought approx. 250 international contests.
Sasson has produced an instructional video called Israeli Ippon Systems, where he showcased the various techniques in his arsenal, including his famous drop techniques. He also gave an insightful Ted Talk entitled: “How a Sensitive Guy Became an Olympic Fighter” where he talked about the nervousness he had to learn to overcome in competitions.
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