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How judokas became top prospects to get Olympic medals for UAE in France?

How judokas became top prospects to get Olympic medals for UAE in France?
7 July 2024 23:08

Kuumar Shyam (Abu Dhabi)

The National Olympic Committee has given a run down of the things to expect from the athletes representing the UAE at the upcoming Summer Games in Paris, while identifying two sports as main sources for their medal hopes – judo and equestrian.

Representatives of various sporting federations were present at a ceremony held at Shindagha Museum in Dubai, but everyone, including the Chef de Mission Ahmed Al Tayeb, agreed that a lot of the expectations from a 14-strong delegation are pinned on the six judokas and four showjumping riders. All athletes are in Europe and in the final phases of preparation before they dive in to the July 26 to August 11 mega event.

The two weeks of action in France will be a culmination of each sporting national federation’s strategy, but for the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation General Secretary Nasser Al Tamimi, it will be midway of an eight-year plan that started since the end of Tokyo Olympics.

Speaking to Aletihad on the sidelines of the news conference, Al Tamimi also shared how it has been not just physical but also the mental aspects behind why judo is a strong source of hope for medals for the UAE.

UAE got their first judo medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics when Moldovan-born Sergio Toma beat Italy’s Matteo Marconcini for the bronze fight in the 81-kilogramme category.

The judokas hit a blank next at the delayed Summer Games in Tokyo, where Toma still took part despite injury issues. The UAE’s only Olympic glory before Toma has been its best – the 2004 gold in shooting won by Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Hasher Al Maktoum at Athens.

The federation has since learnt and adapted. “We started preparing soon after the Tokyo Olympics and we are not just targeting Paris but our strategy runs down to 2028 when the Los Angeles Olympics will be held,” said Al Tamimi.

“The preparations have gone well and the players have been training throughout the year – I would say, 350 days in a year – and not just this past one year. We have had training camps, the last one is ongoing in Spain, where they are totally focused and away from any distractions.

“We have ensured that they are in a healthy environment and that includes mental and physical conditioning, recovery, diet, etc. They know that a lot of expectations are on them and hence it is important to keep them away from any distractions.
“All of the players are going to be there at the Olympics for the first time, so there is a mental side of preparation that we have to keep in mind and that is being ensured,” he added. 

There is one female among the judokas – Khorloodoi Bishrelt. The 2016 medal materialised when the federation showed foresight to naturalise a bunch of athletes from Eastern Europe such as Toma, Victor Scvortov, Ivan Remarenco and others who took part in Rio and Tokyo.

And to lend the mental muscle of the much-needed experience while ensuring continuity, the brains of the federation have appointed Scvortov and Remarenco as head and assistant coach respectively.

The focus on Olympics is such that the already qualified athletes chose to skip the World Judo Championship held on home turf, in Abu Dhabi, in May.

An initial focus squad of eight got further trimmed to six, of which four are ranked in the overall top-18 of their respective categories and hence are strong medal hopes, Al Tamimi said.

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