Emirati teenager faces the Russian world No 9 at the Ipic Arena and is prepared to take on all-comers in his pursuit of a medal.
Khalifa Al Hosani ready to dish out 'payback' to Mikhail Puliaev at IJF Abu Dhabi Grand Slam
Khalifa Al Hosani faces a massive first challenge at the IJF (International Judo Federation) Abu Dhabi Grand Slam after being drawn against Russian world No 9 Mikhail Puliaev.
The Emirati, 18, is one of the youngest in the competition and ranked 364 below the three-time world silver medallist in the event that takes place at the Ipic Arena from Thursday to Saturday.
Al Hosani, competing in the 66-kilogramme weight, is meeting Puliaev for the second time after a narrow points defeat to the Russian at the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku in May.
“My ambition is to reach the medal rounds and I must be prepared to face such opponents and win. This meeting with Mikhail is payback time for me,” said the Emirati teenager.
“At this level, we have to expect to fight against the best in the world. There are no such thing as weaker and stronger opponents in a Grand Slam. For me, it’s still a learning curve but I’m ready.”
The UAE has five entries, with Rashed Al Mashjari (73kg), Victor Scvortov (73kg), Mihail Marchitan (90kg) and Ivan Remarenco (100kg) joining Al Hosani at the IFJ Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
The draw took place yesterday when it was revealed 277 judokas (172 men and 105 women) were competing from 47 nations.
The largest weight category for men is the 73kg division which has drawn 34 entries, while 19 contest the busiest women’s category in the 57kg.
Scvortov meets Mohammed Barimanlou of Iran, and Al Mashjari comes up against Tohar Butbul. Marchitan will face Italian Nicholas Mungai, and Remarenco takes on Alexandre Iddir of France.
Scvortov is genuine medal prospect for the UAE but he will have to overcome 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallist Fabio Basile of Italy, silver medallist Rustam Orujov of Azerbaijan and bronze medallist Dirk van Tichelt from Belgium.
Remarenco has a similarly tough task against the top three in the world when he faces Elkhan Mammadov of Azerbaijan, Michael Korrel from the Netherlands, and Varlam Liparteliani of Georgia.
Austria has only two female entries – Kathrin Unterwurzacher, 25, and Magdalena Krssakova, 23, – both in the 63kg division.
“We have come to Abu Dhabi regularly with bigger contingents but this time only two because it was clashing with the Austrian national championship,” said trainer Marko Spittka.
Unterwurzacher is appearing in the Abu Dhabi event for the fifth time, while it is the first time for Krssakova.
“I love Abu Dhabi because it’s such a beautiful place and I see something different every year I visit,” said Unterwurzacher, who won gold in 2015 and silver in 2016.
“Abu Dhabi has been lucky for me. I was successful in my previous two visits and wish I can reach the medal round again.”
Unterwurzacher finished seventh at the 2016 Rio Olympics and is ranked world No 3. She is bidding for a Grand Slam gold-medal hat-trick after her success in Baku and Tokyo.
Krssakova hasn’t travelled to make up the numbers, and she is equally determined to make her first appearance in Abu Dhabi a memorable one by collecting a medal.
“I’m competing in the same weight division as Kathrin because we are the same weight,” she said when asked why they were both competing for the same medal.
“I have competed against Kathrin in the junior level and once in the senior nationals and yet to win over her. But that may change if we cross paths in this competition.”