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.”