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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

UAE optimistic even as Sergiu Toma pulls out of Abu Dhabi Grand Slam

Hosts have seven judokas lined up at competition, with Rio 2016 bronze medallist giving his back rest

Sergiu Toma of the UAE, in blue, enjoyed a brilliant season in 2016. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images
Sergiu Toma of the UAE, in blue, enjoyed a brilliant season in 2016. Ryan Pierse / Getty Images

Sergiu Toma, one of the UAE's most successful judokas, will be conspicuous by his absence at the ninth Abu Dhabi Grand Slam at the Ipic Arena this week.

Toma - who won bronze at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 - has enjoyed plenty of success at the capital, having clinched a Grand Slam gold last year, silver in 2015 and bronze in 2013.

However the athlete has been laid low by a back injury, according to Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling, Judo and Kick Boxing Federation.

“It’s a small injury, but at this level, we can’t take any chances,” Al Tamimi said. "His welfare is paramount for us and we have given him more time to recover because we are thinking on the long term, and perhaps, for the next Olympics.

“We still have seven [competitors] entered in the men’s divisions and hope we can win a medal or two. It’s tough of course, with the world’s top 25 and around 10 to 12 Olympic medallists arriving in Abu Dhabi.”

In Toma's absence, the UAE's biggest medal hopes include Victor Scvortov in the 73-kilogramme weight division, Mihail Maschitan (90kg) and Ivan Remarenco (100kg).

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“They have prepared well for this competition. They are capable of winning for us,” Al Tamimi said.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam has drawn 292 judokas in the 14 finals for both men and women.

“The number of entries are less than the previous years but it doesn’t lack quality,” Al Tamimi added.

“It’s not unusual after an Olympic Games, as most of them will be not looking for world ranking points at this moment. The numbers that have drawn is still a pretty good number."

Aref Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, rated the judo Grand Slam as on par with some of the marquee event in the capital city.

“In terms of international coverage we receive, judo is level with the Formula 1 at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, Abu Dhabi Cycling Tour and the Mubadala World Tennis Championship,” Al Awani pointed out.

“The Judo Grand Slam is a very important date in our calendar of events. This event will turn 10 next year and we plan to celebrate the milestone in no small way.”

The Abu Dhabi Grand Slam is the fourth after Paris, Baku, and Moscow, with Tokyo in December as the last of the five on the IJF World Tour.