x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Olympics: Emirati judoka already has sights on Rio

Beaten in under three minutes, Humaid Al Derei says he will return in 2016.

UAE athlete Humaid Al Derei lies on the mat during the elimination round match with Ahmed Award at London 2012.
UAE athlete Humaid Al Derei lies on the mat during the elimination round match with Ahmed Award at London 2012.

LONDON // Humaid Al Derei, the Emirati judoka, has already turned his attention to trying to qualify for the Rio Games in four years’ time, after his first Olympic experience lasted a mere two minutes 37 seconds yesterday.

The Abu Dhabi-born player was stopped in his opening knockout stage bout when Ahmed Awad, from Egypt, executed a match-ending ippon after around half of the five minutes allotted for the match had elapsed.

Al Derei was undaunted by the disparity in experience between himself and his Egyptian opponent, and insisted he could have beaten him had he not suffered an arm injury a little over a minute in to the fight.

“He has been to many grands prix and has finished third in grand slams before, so I know he is a very good guy and a good player,” the UAE judoka said.

“But I do think I could have beaten him if I had not got injured. I did one motion that was dangerous and injured myself, and it did not help me.

“I am proud, even though I lost, that I have been able to compete in the Olympics. Inshallah, next time I will be back.”

His time as an Olympian has been brief. He is scheduled to fly back to the UAE today. Yet he has enjoyed a fuller experience than most of the UAE’s tour party at London 2012 as he was one of the few members of the team who attended the opening ceremony.

The UAE only had a tiny walk-on role in the Danny Boyle extravaganza, with their number deflated by the absence of the football squad, as well as Mubarak Salem, the swimmer whose 100 metre breaststroke heat started around 10 hours after the conclusion of the opening ceremony.

To make appearances seem worse, the small UAE contingent were immediately trailed in to the stadium by the United States, whose huge Olympic squad included an array of stars.

“I think we were only on the TV for around six seconds – then a whole army followed us,” said Al Derei, who was joined on the march by Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum, the flag-bearer, Khadija Mohammed, the weightlifter, plus some coaches and officials to bloat their number.

“It was too small, they should have been there. Mahdi Ali [the coach of the Olympic football team] said they should not go to it as they had a match in two days’ time. But they missed out on the experience.”

Al Derei hopes one of his compatriots will be able to succeed where he faltered. “Even though I didn’t manage to win, I hope somebody else can do something, maybe the weightlifter [Khadija],” he said.

pradley@thenational.ae

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