INTERVIEW: Emirati judo star Humaid Al Derei

Matt Jones 13/07/2016
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Tokyo target: Al Derei wants to become a UAE legend.

Humaid Al Derei has a simple yet lofty goal in life – to become one of the most famous Emirati names in Olympic Games history.

At first glance that may not seem too tall a task. The UAE, for example, remain a fledgling nation in every sense.

Officially 44 years old, the country has appeared in just eight Games, more than just 47 of the 204 nations recognised by the National Olympic Committee.

Since debuting at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, with just seven athletes, the UAE has only Sheikh Ahmad bin Mohammad bin Hasher Al Maktoum’s gold medal in the men’s double trap at Athens 2004 to boast of.

The UAE is, however growing at an exponential rate in every sense. Thirteen members of Team UAE heading to Rio next month have already been selected with more expected to join them.

A team of 13 would make it the third largest contingent of Emirati athletes to participate after the 14 who went to Barcelona in 1992 and the 27 who went to London (although 19 of them were part of the UAE national football team).

Like Al Maktoum and the two high-profile members of that debut Games 32 years ago, 400m hurdler Rashed Jerbeh and long jumper Shahad Mubarak, Al Derei dreams of making history for the Emirates.

Humaid Al Derei.

Humaid Al Derei.

“Since I was young I have always wanted to achieve something in judo,” said the 24-year-old judoka, who was also part of the 27-strong team four years ago in London.

“I wanted to stamp my mark in judo so people would remember me. So when I qualified for London 2012 that was my first stamp. It is a memory which no-one will forget.

“Everybody will now recognise Humaid Al Derei as an Olympian, that was my big break, but in the UAE we don’t stop, we continue. When I finish I want to be one of the biggest names in Emirati Olympic history.”

After realising his ambition of participating in the Games in London – Al Derei, then just 21, lost to Egypt’s Ahmed Awad in the second round of the men’s – 66kg category – the Abu Dhabi native is upset not to be part of the team this time around.

However, having just embarked on an administration and public relations degree at Abu Dhabi University and in the middle of his mandatory military service, he admits he would have simply not been ready for Rio.

His Olympic dream is far from dead though, and as soon as the 2016 Games are finished, he will turn his attentions to 2020 and Tokyo.

“Insh’Allah I am looking for the Olympics in Tokyo 2020,” he said.

“After Rio I will start a special programme and I will be finished in the Army so I will manage my time between college, training and competitions. After London it is definitely something I want to experience again.

Humaid in action during a recent competition.

Humaid in action during a recent competition.

“I’m still very young, in four years’ time I will be 28 so I can still go to Tokyo and compete for a medal. It doesn’t matter I’m not at Rio.

“My vision is Tokyo and I want to do well. For the Olympics you need three years of camps and competitions, so that’s why I’m targeting Tokyo.”

Although it was undoubtedly a tough call to make not to put his hand up for selection this year, Al Derei says he will try to make it to Rio to cheer on the three judokas who have been chosen – naturalised Moldovan-born trio Victor Scvortov, Sergiu Toma and Ivan Remarenco.

He said: “I hope I will still go as a spectator. I cannot get a ticket at the moment but I hope I will go to support the other guys who will be competing. If I go I will try to enjoy it and cheer on the guys representing the UAE.”

With so much pressure on him currently, missing Rio was the sensible decision. Not that the preparations four years ago were ideal for Al Derei, far from it.

He was only 21, entered the 2012 Games hampered by an eye infection and was nursing an injured elbow when he fought Awad.

However, he admits he gained a lot from the experience.

“It was wonderful to compete there,” said Al Derei.

“People were interested in me even though I was not from the country. People were supporting the UAE. The opponent I lost to was Egyptian and they were supporting both of us.

“I got an injury in my elbow so I could not compete well. But I got through the experience and enjoyed it and I just think that I got to compete at the Olympics.

“Things might have been different without the injury, who knows, but I was playing well, better than what I did (where I finished).

“It was a difficult match to win but I think I could have beaten him. I had come up against him in previous tournaments. He would have not taken the win easily if I had been fit. After the match he spoke to me and said he’d heard about the injury, and he capitalised on that.

“It was very special. I was very proud of myself. They were good memories. It was one of the best moments in my life and I will never forget it.”

Most popular

Happy Birthday - Nicklaus, Raju, Di Canio

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
(L-R): Nicklaus, Raju, Di Canio.

‘The Golden Bear’ is widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time, winning 18 career major championships in his career over a span of 25 years.

Nicklaus focused mainly on the major championships and played a selective schedule of PGA Tour events, but still finished with 73 victories, third on the all-time list.

Nicklaus turned professional at age 21 in 1961. His first big win came in a major – the 1962 U.S. Open – when he beat Palmer by three shots in a playoff, setting the stage for a great rivalry between golf’s superstars.

Then on this day in 1966, during The Open Championship at Muirfield, Nicklaus won the first of his three Claret Jugs.

He thus completed the first of his three career grand slams and at the age of 26, was the youngest to do so at the time.

1968: Paolo Di Canio (below), Italian manager and former footballer with over 500 league appearances (48).

1969: Venkatapathy Raju, former India left-arm spinner who took 93 Test wickets (47).

1972: Derek Mills, former American sprinter and 1996 Olympic gold medalist in men’s 4x400m relay (44).

1985: Ashley Young, English footballer who plays as a winger for Manchester United and the national team (31).

Most popular

Related Sections

On this day: Italy win the World Cup on penalties

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
It was a monumental moment for Italy.

It was an incredible end to a tumultuous final.

Playing his last game before retiring, Zinedine Zidane put France ahead early on with a coolly-taken chipped penalty, before Marco Materazzi levelled with a header from an Andrea Pirlo corner.

Things then turned ugly when Zidane was sent off for headbutting Materazzi after being verbally provoked.

Things remained level as the match went to penalties. Fabio Grosso scored the winning penalty after France’s David Trezeguet missed as Italy won 5-3 in penalties to hoist the World Cup for the fourth time.

1877: First ever Wimbledon tennis championship begins with only the men’s singles section.

1990: Kiwi legend Richard Hadlee takes five wickets (below) in his final effort with the ball in a Test, against England at Birmingham.

1991: The International Olympic Committee lifts a 21-year-long ban on South Africa, satisfied that the country had committed itself to abolishing discrimination in sports.

Most popular

Related Sections