Fair philosophy for Emirates' lone fighter at London Olympics
Humaid Al Derei will not arrive unprepared at the London 2012 Olympics.
The 20-year-old Emirati will be only the second judoka to represent the UAE at the Summer Games, and he is putting himself through a punishing schedule that sees him train for two-and-a-half hours, five days a week at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club.
He wants to justify the wild card given to him after the World Championship in Paris last August, and if preparing for the pinnacle of judo competition were not difficult enough, Al Derei has the added challenge of combining his training with his medical studies. The black belt first dan also uses whatever spare time he has to film documentaries on martial arts.
But his main goal is a career in medicine.
"I have to do a balancing act with my training and studies because they are both very important to me," Al Derei said. "Still, I want to achieve the best result in both."
Timur Mokhamed Khanov, coach of the UAE's national judo team, agrees Al Derei has multiple responsibilities.
"He has a very difficult task," said Khanov, an Uzbek. "I would have preferred him training full-time, but I don't want to stand against his wish when he is thinking of his future. Humaid is disciplined. He never misses training and always arrives before time, and works hard to achieve his goals."
Al Derei acknowledges it is not possible to pursue a career in his sport.
"Judo is an Olympic sport but doesn't get the same support as jiu-jitsu," Al Derei said. "For certain, I can't make a living out of judo. It is a great sport and I will continue to practice as long as I can."
Al Derei has been involved in judo for the past decade, half of his life. He flirted with jiu-jitsu and boxing at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club but opted for judo. "I liked its philosophy of not hurting the opponent," he said.
The fourth in a family of nine boys, Al Derei was encouraged to take up the sport by his father.
"He wasn't in to judo but he had some friends practising it," Al Derei said. "He introduced me and my older brothers to the sport through his friends. My brothers gave up after some time, but I got hooked.
"To now represent the country in the Olympic Games is already an achievement. It has been my dream in the last two years and to receive a wild card is the best reward I could ever receive in the sport."
The first Emirati judoka to compete in the Olympics was Saeed Al Qubaisi at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but Al Derei's role model is Mohamed Ali Rashwan, the Egyptian judoka and silver medallist in the 1984 Olympic Games.
Rashwan lost the final to Japan's Yasuhiro Yamashita when he decided not to attack the right leg of his opponent, which had been injured during the competition.
Rashwan won the fair-play international award as a result, something that really struck Al Derei when he studied the career of the Egyptian during a trip to Cairo for the World Championship in 2005.
"I read his biography and I liked his philosophy," he said. "Here was a man who believed in fair play even if it meant losing an Olympic gold medal. So from that time, he was my role model."
Aspiring judo fighters in the country could grow up using Al Derei as an inspiration, particularly as he is already grooming the next generation with a series of tutorials.
"That's something I really enjoy," he said. "Perhaps I can use all my experience to become an instructor when I decide to quit from competitions." Khanov, who represented his country at the 1996 Atlanta Games, believes Al Derei has the qualities to become the first Emirati national coach.
"In my opinion, this is what he enjoys most," said Khanov, who is completing the first of his three-year contract with the UAE Wrestling, Judo & Jiu Jitsu Federation.
"He spends more time in helping others. He is almost like my assistant, and I encourage him because he is also learning when he is teaching."
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Updated: May 1, 2012 04:00 AM