Naser Al Tamimi is dreaming of judo medals for the UAE in Rio, but insists inspiring future generations of Emirati judokas is the ultimate goal.
Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling, Judo & Kick boxing Federation, is hoping the trio of Moldovan-born judokas flying the flag for the Emirates in Brazil can achieve success.
The country’s biggest medal hope, Sergiu Toma, begins his quest for a medal at his third Games in the men’s 81kg division against Germany’s Sven Maresch on Tuesday.
Ivan Remarenco takes on Algeria’s Lyes Bouyakoub on Thursday in the 100kg category, while Victor Scvortov exited the 73kg competition in the last-16 yesterday at the hands of Japan’s Shohei Ono.
Al Tamimi believes young Emirati judokas needs heroes and he hopes the trio can help foster future interest in the sport.
“We don’t have an example for the new generation to follow, we don’t have a hero for them to be a role model, so this is what we are looking for,” Al Tamimi, who is also an International Judo Federation board member, told Sport360.
The naturalisation process of the thee judokas fighting at the Olympics began in the wake of 2013, with Al Tamimi revealing it was done in the hope of captivating the younger generation.
Humaid Al Derei represented the UAE at the London 2012 Olympics in the 66kg division and Al Tamimi’s hope is more locals will follow in his footsteps.
“We have a new generation of Emirati judokas and that is the reason we brought these guys across to represent the UAE,” said Al Tamimi, who hopes Emiratis may feature at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Argentina as well as the next Olympics in Tokyo 2020.
“It was successful because the next generation have been keeping up to date with what these guys have been doing in the World Championships, the grand slams, the grands prix.
“The number of kids taking up judo in the schools is becoming more and they are training with these guys so they have more motivation to take up judo.
“Already we have started with the young generation. They are 14/15 and we are looking for them to make an impact at the 2020 Olympics.
“We have a lot of talented guys in the programme in preparation for the 2018 youth Olympic Games and 2020 Olympics. We have the senior team but we have a junior team following in their footsteps.”
The UAE have only ever won one medal at an Olympics, Sheikh Ahmad bin Mohammad bin Hasher Al Maktoum shooting his way to gold in the double trap event at the 2004 Games in Athens.
Despite this lone victory, Al Tamimi thinks a judo medal in Rio is obtainable, especially with 29-year-old Toma ranked ninth in the world in his weight category.
“We want to achieve results in the big events such as the Olympics,” he added.
“Yes, I think it is realisitc. It would be a very big change for judo in the UAE. We would have more support from the government and it was also be more promotable, for the new generation. To get a medal, any medal, would be helpful and great for judo in the UAE.”
All Blacks great Zinzan Brooke has lauded the career achievements of Sonny Bill Williams – but believes his switch to sevens for the Olympic Games could lead to a disastrous campaign for New Zealand in Rio.
Williams will feature for the men from the land of the long white cloud in Rio – Gordon Tietjens’ men kick off their bid for Olympic glory against Japan on Tuesday – but Brooke has reservations about how much of a success the 31-year-old convert will be.
“Sonny has played rugby’s both codes, he’s tried boxing, he’s won two Rugby World Cups, his CV is very impressive, but I have my reservations,” Brooke told Sport360 on a visit to the UAE earlier this year.
“I should be backing and encouraging him but I’m not too sure he can do it. I hope he proves me wrong. I’m concerned about the New Zealand side.
“No doubt he can find a gap but in sevens there’s many scenarios where you have to get up when you can’t and there’ll be many of those, particularly against the Fijians.”
The 51-year-old former No8 won 51 All Blacks caps between 1987-97 and was renowned himself for being an athlete who broke barriers.
Brooke scored a then record for a forward 17 Test tries on the international stage and famously kicked a 45-metre drop-goal against England in New Zealand’s 45-29 semi-final win against England at the 1995 World Cup.
Brooke doesn’t feel his nation have enough to challenge Fiji in Rio, with Ben Ryan’s men favourites for the gold medal.
The once-dominant Kiwis are record 12-time winners of the World Sevens Series, which has run for just 17 years.
They are also joint holders of the best record at the Rugby World Cup Sevens along with Fiji, winning in 2001 and 2013, but Brooke claims Fiji are in a class of their own in Brazil.
“Ben Ryan has them in another stratosphere and they’re the team to chase,” said Brooke.
“I don’t think New Zealand sevens has enough to challenge Fiji. I think they need new blood but it’s too late to change to win the Olympics. You can’t blood someone in that late (Williams) so it potentially could be a catastrophe short and long term.”
Aside from the Olympics, New Zealand are gearing up for the Rugby Championship which kicks off with Steve Hansen’s men visiting defending champions Australia in Sydney on August 20.
In 20 years of the southern hemisphere competition, the All Blacks have lifted the trophy 13 times, but the Wallabies broke their three-year grip on the title last year.
Argentina have been in the tournament since 2012 and broke new ground last year by finishing third. It was the first time in four editions they had not come bottom of the group and Brooke believes they can beat the wooden spoon again this year.
“The Irleand team in the World Cup was good, but Argentina exposed them badly,” said Brooke (the Pumas defeated Joe Schmidt’s men 43-20 in a thrilling quarter-final encounter).
“It was a hell of a game. What they did to Ireland was put 43 points on them, Ireland who won Six Nations. That says a lot. Argentina are a young team too, you should be watching them. They won’t come last in the Rugby Championship this year.”
Kosovo only declared its independence from Serbia back in 2008, but they have already won their first Olympic gold.
They became a member of the International Olympic Committee in 2014, so this was the first time athletes were able to march into the Olympic Games under the Kosovo flag. And they brought the world champion in Judo to the Rio games.
Majlinda Kelmendi made history on Sunday when she became the first athlete from Kosovo to win an Olympic medal.
The 25-year-old beat Odette Giuffrida in the final of the women’s 52 kg event.