Ivan Remarenco will have the weight of a nation on his shoulders as he is now the UAE's sole medal hopeful left at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Moldova-born judoka meets Egypt-born Canadian Shady Elnahas in the 100-kg category round-of-32 clash on Thursday.
Remarenco, 32, is in the top half of the draw. If successful in the first contest, will meet the winner of the contest between Zelym Kotsoiv of Azerbaijan and Frenchman Alexandre Iddir.
However, he will have to overcome his young opponent Elnahas, 23, who reached the semi-finals at the World Championships in Budapest in his last competition in June.
Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation, believes Remarenco and can handle the pressure.
“Ivan is competing in his third Olympics and can handle the pressure of expectations. He is aware our hopes of a medal rest on him,” he said.
“We have told him to go out there and give his best shot. If he’s successful we’ll be very happy, if not, it’s fine. Ivan is aware of the expectations but he’s cool and remains fully focused .
“Obviously facing his first opponent is the most important contest. Shady is an emerging young judoka and we believe Ivan’s experience will come in handy.”
Remarenco represented Moldova at London 2012 before winning a ticket to Rio 2016 under the UAE flag.
He also became the first judoka to win a world championship medal (bronze) for the UAE in 2014.
Remarenco moved to compete under the UAE flag in 2013 along with compatriots Victor Scvortov, eliminated earlier in the 73kg on Monday, and Sergio Toma, who retired after winning bronze at Rio.
“We had a lot of success with them in the world circuit and of course at Rio, winning only the second Olympic medal in the history of the UAE,” Al Tamimi said.
“Our plan will be to continue with the same approach for Paris 2024. It’s already on the table and we’ll get to work on our strategy soon after Tokyo.”