Teddy Riner plans to start his quest for a record-equalling third Olympic judo title in 2021 by competing in next month’s Qatar Masters - the opening event of the International Judo Federation (IJF) season.
And he also intends to compete in the mixed team event which is due to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
Speaking today at the IJF’s virtual JudoFest, the 31-year-old French athlete said the event scheduled in Doha from January 11 to 13 would be his first competitive opportunity for almost a year.
"I’m feeling good, and I hope to come back for the next competition in January," Riner said.
"My target is the same - I hope to win the Olympic gold medal in 2021."
Reflecting on the postponement of the Tokyo Games until next summer because of the current COVID pandemic, Riner - who also won bronze at the Beijing 2008 Games and has earned eight world titles in the heavyweight, over-100 kilograms category, added: "This has produced a change for everybody.
"It has changed the lives of everybody.
"But Tokyo next year will be a special moment.
"If I don’t have the gold medal in my category in Tokyo, and no gold medal with the team, I have one chance again at the Olympic Games in Paris."
In February 2020, Riner - who has competed sparingly in the last few years - was defeated by Japan's Kokoro Kageura at the Paris Grand Slam, which ended a run of 154 victories stretching back to 2010.
If he can earn another Olympic gold he will draw level in the record books with Japan’s Tadahiro Nomura, who took three consecutive titles in the under-60kg category between 1996 and 2004.
After joining the virtual broadcast as a surprise guest, Riner offered two of his fellow judoka advice for their upcoming Olympic challenge.
He told Israel’s Peter Paltchik, who won the European under-100kg title in Prague last month and is looking towards an Olympic debut, and Kosovo’s Majlinda Kelmendi, who is due to defend her under-52kg category title in Tokyo: "It will be a big challenge.
"The Olympics is a big, big event, everybody loves this event and trains for it.
"The first step is to stay focused on your target.
"After the job, when you have the gold medal objective, after - then you can party.
"Before this the focus.
"You don’t see the people enjoying themselves, you don’t see the other competitions, you are still focused on your target."
Riner had one more piece of advice to his fellow judoka at the Games, telling them that they must avoid unnecessary distractions in the crucial period before their competition.
"Take two phones," he said.
"One for everybody - you speak to them after.
"And one for your coach, your staff, for people you need during this very special moment."
The IJF’s 2020 World Judo Tour, initially suspended in March because of the pandemic, got underway again in October at the Budapest Grand Slam but was then called off by the IJF Executive Committee on safety grounds.
"The IJF team will now focus on organising the Qatar Masters in January," said IJF President Marius Vizer last month, "and we hope that we will be able to bring together the international judo community in Doha to mark a fresh start of judo in 2021, with the best athletes of the world competing for Olympic qualification."