Magomedomar Magomedomarov has won the UAE's first gold medal at this year's Asian Games after beating Tajikistan's Temur Rakhimov in Hangzhou on Tuesday.
The Russian-born judoka defeated Rakhimov in the over 100kg final with an ippon four minutes into the contest after teammates Aram Grigorian (90kg) and Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg) each bagged bronze on the penultimate day of the judo competition.
It takes the UAE's tally in judo at the Xiaoshan Linpu Gymnasium to one gold, a silver and three bronzes, and the country now sits 10th in the medals table. Judokas Bishrelt Khorloodoi and Narmandakh Bayanmunkh took the other two medals on Sunday.
Grigorian, 25, stopped Korean Han Juyeop in three-and-a-half minutes with an ippon in the opening medal contest in the second session.
Kostoev, 24, outclassed the defending Olympic champion Aaron Phillip Wolf of Japan with a waza-ari on his way to the podium.
The UAE judo team accounts for all the medals the nation has won so far in China - exceeding their own pre-tournament predictions.
“We expected two or three medals, but our judokas have performed beyond those expectations,” Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation, told The National.
“The Asian Games is an excellent platform for us to build for the Paris Olympics next year. This has been our objective when we assembled the new squad early in 2022.”
Magomedomarov, 22, had to clear four hurdles to reach the final. Gold medallist last year at both the European Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and the Islam Solidarity Games in Konya, Turkey, he opened his campaign with a win over Syimyk Zhaparov of Kyrgyzstan by ippon in three minutes and 20 seconds.
He then beat Mongolia’s Tsetsentsengel Odkhuu in a golden score with a waza-ari before cruising past Uzbek Alisher Yusupov in two minutes and 22 seconds in the semi-final.
The UAE fielded two judokas at the last Asian Games in Jakarta 2018 when they secured a bronze, and the winner of that medal, Victor Scvortov, is now head coach of the present squad.
The Moldova-born judoka represented the UAE at two Olympics along with compatriot Ivan Remarenco, now his assistant.
“We thought to have them as our technical staff to continue with our program would work us, and it really has worked, going by the results in Hangzhou,” Al Tamimi added.
“Victor and Ivan have been with the federation for over nine years. They are aware of our objectives and our development pathways. The result achieved in this Asian Games reflects the plan we implemented soon after the 2012 London Games is bearing fruits.”
Elsewhere, the UAE finished fifth in the men’s rugby sevens. They powered to a 42-0 win over Chinese Taipei and beat Malaysia 28-14 in the competition. Hong Kong defeated Korea 14-7 in the final while Japan edged out China 21-19 for bronze.
In boxing, Nawwaf Al Zahmi and Mohamed Al Hefeiti both crashed out to leave Sultan Al Nuaimi as the sole flag bearer for the UAE in the ring.
Al Zahmi went down to Pakistani Muhammad Qasim by unanimous decision in the round of 32 in the 57kg weight and Al Hefeiti lost against Muhammad Abroridinov of Tajikistan in the over 92kg round of 16.
Al Nuaimi, who made history by becoming the first Emirati to win a bout at the Asian Games, will be in action in the 51kg round of 16 on Thursday.