Maitha Al Nyadi, 17, is also the UAE's undisputed muay thai champion. She is mulling over whether to accept a scholarship at the Tokai University in Japan to further her education and her judo training
Whether judo or archery, Olympic ambition fuels multifaceted Emirati teenager
Not many teenagers can claim to have already represented their country in a sport at international level, let alone in two.
Maitha Al Nyadi, 17, a Grade 12 pupil from Al Qadsiya School in Abu Dhabi, became the first Emirati female to win an international medal in judo when she bagged a bronze at the Cadets Asian Cup in Hong Kong in 2017.
The same year she recorded an eighth-placed finish at the Archery World Cup in Marrakech. The National Olympic Committee has shortlisted Maitha for the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
She also happens to be the country's undisputed muay thai champion.
Maitha has some important decisions to make over the next few weeks. She is sitting her final examinations at Al Qadsiya and then must decide whether to accept a scholarship at the Tokai University in Japan or continue her education at home.
“I’m finishing my final year at school and have already submitted my papers to Tokai University, but again, haven’t made a final decision,” said Maitha, who has previously attended camps at the university in Tokyo in 2014 and 2016.
“When I weigh up the options, realistically Japan seems to be the place I need to be to If I want to fulfill my sporting ambitions. Joining Tokai University comes to my mind first because for the simple reason I want to pursue my judo with the objective of representing my country at the Olympics.
“Judo is my first love and then comes archery and muay thai. If I decide to go to Japan, I’ll take up computer programming for my academics and if I decide to stay back I’ll take up criminology at the Police Academy."
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Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling, Judo and Kickboxing Federation, says Maitha has long been earmarked as a future Olympian.
“We have long term plans for her,” he said. “She’s young and has a bright future ahead. We are investing in her for the Olympics, maybe Tokyo 2020, if not Paris 2024.”
“At the Tokai University she can complete both her higher education and work on her high performance training in judo.”
Maitha is one of seven children. Her two younger brothers Hamdan, 16, and Mohammed, 15, followed her into judo but have now moved to muay thai full time. She recalls how she was encouraged to take up martial arts at a young age by her father.
"I tried her hand in many martial arts sports including karate, kung-fu and jiu-jitsu but I liked judo the best," she said.
“My father took me to the gym where they practiced these martial arts and wanted me to have a go at them. I was about six or seven, I loved judo the best.
“My family has been very supportive and have given me all the encouragement to pursue my sports."