UAE at Rio 2016: ‘Target is an Olympic medal, but three is the dream’ for country’s judo trio
Typically, shooting provides the UAE with its best chance of success at an Olympics, a traditionally royal pursuit that has yielded the country’s only medal: Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher’s gold at Athens 2004.
In Rio this month, the 13-strong group of UAE participants again has shooters at its forefront, with Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum, Saif bin Futtais and Khalid Al Kaabi each taking dead aim at a place atop the podium.
However, instead of holding the Emirates’ only serious claims of adding to Sheikh Ahmed’s celebrated feat, this time they share the burden. In Rio, judo also offers a genuine crack at a medal.
Three judokas will seek to lift, drop, throw and kick their way into contention. All three are Moldovan-born athletes; all three have already tasted medal success at a major international event; all three have been locked in intensive preparations dating back well into last year.
As the build-up to Rio 2016 has intensified, Victor Scvortov, Sergiu Toma and Ivan Remarenco have undertaken a series of training camps punctuated only by May’s Judo Grand Slam in Azerbaijan and then the World Master Judo in Mexico, both high-class competitions.
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More recently, the trio again trained hard in Spain, Hungary and at altitude in Romania, with the latter even including psychological training administered by a renowned sports psychologist from Germany. The two-day course covered everything to help combat the unique pressures that come with competing at an Olympics.
So, in a sport of lifts and turnovers, the UAE judokas have left no stone unturned.
“We’ve given everything to them to be ready,” said Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling, Judo and Kick Boxing Federation (UAE WJKBF).
“They’re professionals and so we’ve treated them as such. We’re confident. Our target is an Olympic medal, but three is the dream. The guys have one thing on their minds: they’re not going just to fight, but to take a medal. They’re ready.”
So, platform to perform provided. Over to you now, guys.
Scvortov, who competes at 73kg, has a number of medals under his judo belt since he began representing the UAE three years ago, including two grand prix golds in 2014 and silver this year. At the 2014 World Championships, he took bronze.
Ranking in the 81kg class, Toma is slightly heavier, but his medal chances are also considered weighty. In 2011, he took silver at the European Championships and bronze at the World Championships, but crucially is the most experienced of the UAE’s three judokas. Qualifying for Rio as one of the top 22 eligible judokas in the world rankings, Toma is contesting his third Olympics.
Likewise, Remarenco can lean on previous experience at this level. Competing at 100kg, the half-heavyweight represented Moldova in London four years ago. For the UAE, he clinched bronze at the 2014 World Championships, while he celebrates his 28th birthday on August 7. Gold, silver or bronze for his present?
The three judokas, competing for the Emirates since 2013, have put in the hard yards, have the know-how and have the ability to make their mark in Rio.
Like Sheikh Saeed, Bin Futtais and Kaabi, they are gunning to shoot the UAE to glory, too.
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Updated: August 1, 2016 04:00 AM