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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Focused Qubaisi can spring surprise

The UAE's teenage judo player is to fight in front of 8,000 spectators during a series of bouts that will see medals awarded in his weight category.
Saeed Rashid al Qubaisi will be in action today.
Saeed Rashid al Qubaisi will be in action today.

The UAE's teenage judo player Saeed Rashid al Qubaisi is to fight in front of 8,000 spectators during a series of bouts that will see medals awarded in his weight category. Qubaisi, 17, spent yesterday going through a gruelling speed training, stretch routine and massage in preparation for today's tough first-round fight against the South African Marlon August in the under 73kg class at Beijing's Science and Technology University Gymnasium

"Saeed is a young player and this is his first Olympics. We want him to show good spirit," said his coach Sergei Saveliev, 53, outside the Olympic Village in Beijing, where the young star is staying. "The South African is older by a year and in judo that really means something. "But we are ready to fight and Saeed is not an easy opponent. "Now it's all about hard training. We have trained where the competition will be held to feel the atmosphere. His only relaxation is sleeping at night and he is sleeping very well. Like every coach I am dreaming of a good result and maybe he will get one."

The Abu Dhabi youngster and Saveliev have been working together for six years after Qubaisi gave up karate aged 11 and turned to judo. On the mat, his most effective weapons are his speed and his flexibility, Savliev said, as well as his sound spirit. "He is a quiet guy and it is difficult to say what kind of a character he is," said Saveliev. "He is quiet but inside he is aggressive and he is not afraid. During the match he is angry.

"He likes an active life - when he is not training he is playing football or swimming. "He likes computers too - he is well-educated, unlike some young people of his age." Saveliev was the Belarusian judo team's head coach before coming to the Emirates in 1992. Saeed has also benefited from the attention of Hassan Moussa, 35, a Tunisian who represented his country at Atlanta 1996, where he placed seventh, and Sydney 2000.

"Moussa prefers the French style of judo and I prefer the Russian style, so Saeed is getting well prepared in both styles," said Saveliev. "He has one part of me and part of Moussa. Moussa has given him a lot. I am not so young now so it's difficult for me to stay with Saeed on the mat because he is very strong. "Moussa is younger and the same weight so he is the ideal sparring partner while I can correct tactical moments by looking on from the side."

Despite the rigorous preparation, Saeed has also been able to socialise with other competitors he knows from the international judo circuit. The Olympic Village's six-storey apartment blocks are full of the world's top sporting talent, with relaxed-looking players in their country's tracksuits wandering around the campus and doing some light cycling through the nearby wide streets lined with modern apartments and office blocks.

"He has many friends here - he has taken part in many international competitions so he knows a lot of Belarusian, Uzbek, Kazakh, French players," said Saveliev. And while a gold medal would be an incredible result for the teenager, Saveliev said it is not an unthinkable result for him. "Many unbelievable things will happen at these Olympics and we have our own small surprise in Saeed," he added. "He is young and he has a great future and a very serious relationship with the sport.

"The UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation has done everything to help him get a good result. Time will tell." @Email:sports@thenational.ae