The UAE are pinning their Tokyo Olympics medal hopes on a trio who represented them at Rio 2016 — in shooter Saif bin Futtais, plus judokas Victor Scvortov and Ivan Remarenco.
A six-member squad in Japan — that also includes wildcards swimmer Yousuf Al Matrooshi, and track athletes Hassan Al Noobi and Fatima Al Hosani — is the smallest contingent UAE are sending to an Olympics since the nation’s first Games participation at Los Angeles 1984.
Ahmed Al Taeb, technical director of the National Olympic Committee, believes the current Covid-19 situation had made life difficult for everyone involved with the Games taking place in Japan's capital.
“It has been a massive challenge for the host nation to hold the Olympics and for us to have a squad at Tokyo was a challenge under the prevailing pandemic situation,” Al Taeb said at the media conference to announce the UAE’s Olympic squad in Dubai on Tuesday.
“It has been two tough years for us to prepare and qualify the athletes. The challenges are not yet over because of the strict safety protocols the athletes have to go through even as they participate in the competitions.”
Until now, the UAE has won only two Olympic medals but Al Taeb is quietly confident another could come from the experienced trio of Bin Futtais, Scvortov and Remarenco.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher Al Maktoum grabbed a historic gold in double trap for the UAE at Athens 2004 and Sergio Toma, the Moldovan-born judoka, became only the second medallist for the nation when he won bronze at Rio 2016.
“We are not promising anything but we are hopeful from the progress we have seen from Saif, Victor and Ivan since their participation at Rio,” he said.
“For Yousuf [100m freestyle], Hassan [100m] and Fatima [still to be decided], it will be an experience from which they can take their levels forward. I would like to think they can achieve personal bests from their events.”
According to Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation, Scvortov and Remarenco have progressed well and are ready to roll in Tokyo.
“We hope to replicate what judo achieved at Rio,” Al Tamimi said. “Victor is in good shape for a medal. He has competed in four competitions at both the World and Asian Championships, and two Grand Slams in Georgia and Russia.
“Victor won two bronze medals at the Asian and Grand Slam Russia. He was sixth in the World Championships. He has moved to 20 in the world rankings.
“Ivan had an injury setback but he’s been training and preparing well. So we are hopeful they can put a good performance.”
Scvortov (73kg weight) and Remarenco (100kg) will travel to the Games from Moldova where they have been training for the past month.
“We have picked sparring partners from Moldova and Russia as part of their final preparations. They will fly out on July 17 with Victor in action on 26th and Ivan the 30th.