ABU DHABI // Timur Mokhamed Khanov, the national judo coach, hopes his Olympic experience will help inspire his charges at the London Games.
One fighter, Humaid Al Derei, has already qualified, and another, Khalifa Al Qubaisi, is aiming to score enough world ranking points to join him. This will be the second consecutive Olympics in which a UAE fighter has taken part.
"For a second Emirati judoka to represent in the Olympics for the second time in succession is a massive incentive for the country's youth," Khanov said.
The coach, who was in the Uzbekistan team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, is relishing going to the Games again. He is eager for his fighters to experience what he called "the highest point in my judo career".
"It is the summit for the sport and I believe it is the objective of all athletes," Khanov said. "When I was picked for the national team for the Atlanta Games, it was like a dream come true."
Khanov, 40, is a five-time Uzbekistan national champion. He won bronze medals at the Russian Junior Open and at the Asian Championships in 1995.
Al Derei received a wild-card entry to the London Games after taking part in the World Championship in France last year. Al Qubaisi hopes he can earn enough ranking points from the Russian Grand Prix this weekend to give him entry. Both fighters will leave for Moscow tomorrow for two-day training camps before and after the competition.
Khanov, who is in his first year of a three-year contract coaching the team, says the UAE had made progress even before his arrival and his job was to continue a programme that is already in place.
"There is no short cut to reach the medal rounds in any competitions," he said. "I have not come here with a magic formula but to continue with the work and prepare them for the Olympics as well as the other upcoming events."
If Al Qubaisi is unable to qualify, the coach said, the experience gained from Moscow will be useful for the Gulf championship in Qatar later this year.
Saeed Al Qubaisi represented the Emirates at the 2008 Beijing Games, going out in the first round. Al Derei emphasised the need for the Emirati judokas to put in the hard work if they want to reach a competitive international standard.
"The coach is there to guide, teach us the finer points and provide advice, but it is up to us to work ourselves to the desired levels to win and be successful. It is the same in every sport," he said.
Khanov feels that Emirati judokas need to compete more regularly in both local and international competitions. He also suggested a programme in schools and called for more Emirati instructors.
"I think it is only a matter of time before the UAE will have more competitions which will draw more participation," he said.
Khanov spent three years coaching in Kuwait before he arrived in the UAE. He found that there were more judo clubs there and many Kuwaiti instructors, too.
Kuwait won a gold, two silvers and four bronze medals at the last Arab Games and Khanov said their success was due to the set-up in the county and regular competitions at club level.
Khanov has spent almost all his life training for and teaching judo. He got into the sport in 1984 and retired in 2002 "because of too many injuries" to become a full-time instructor.
His first full-time job as an instructor was at a military school and was later appointed as the junior national coach of Uzbekistan.
"Uzbekistan is a wrestling country," he said. "I watched wrestling and judo on TV and my interest in judo grew. I joined a club close to my home.
Khanov is married with two sons, Shukhrat, three, and Daoud, who celebrated his first birthday last week. "I am very fortunate to still do what I enjoy most," Khanov said.
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