After Sergiu Toma’s medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, the UAE's hopes of more Olympic success in Tokyo this summer rest on the shoulders of two other judokas in Victor Scvortov and Ivan Remarenco.
The UAE has dispatched a six-member team, and joining Scvortov and Remarenco are shooter Saif bin Futtais (skeet), swimmer Yousuf Al Matrooshi (100m freestyle) and track and field athletes Hassan Al Noobi (100m) and Fatima Al Hosani (discus).
Scvortov and Remarenco, along with Bin Futtais, were members of the 2016 squad in Rio when Toma bagged the bronze medal in the 81-kilogram weight for the UAE's second ever Olympic medal.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher earned the UAE its first Olympic medal when he struck gold in the double trap at 2004 Games in Athens.
Toma, 34, retired in 2018 following a recurring back injury but Scvortov, 33, and Remarenco, 32, have continued to compete and have qualified for another go at the Olympic medals.
Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation, hopes one of the two judokas can emulate their former teammate's achievements.
“They arrived at the Games Village in ship shop shape, and have continued with their preparations,” Al Tamimi, who is also a member of the International Judo Federation, told The National from Tokyo.
“Victor has maintained his position (ranked 20 in the world) throughout the last four years. He has achieved some good results in the world circuit and his ranking has remained pretty consistent.”
Scvortov was the first judoka from the UAE to win an IJF World Championships medal in 2014 when he took bronze in Chelyabinsk, Russia. He won the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and Budapest in 2014, silver at the Grand Prix The Hague in 2017 and bronze in Tashkent in 2018.
He also bagged bronze at the Asian Games in Jakarta and followed up with bronze at the Asian-Oceanic Championships in Fujairah in 2019, silver at the Grand Prix in Montreal, and bronze at the Grand Slam in Kazan in 2021.
At Rio, he was eliminated by Japan’s world champion Shohei Ono, the eventual winner at the Games.
“In judo, every competition at this level is very hard to win but we are still hopeful of Victor and Ivan to reach the medal rounds,” Al Tamimi said.
“Victor and Ivan have progressed well since Rio. They have worked their way up and qualified for the Olympics, which itself is a pretty good result for us as a federation.
“This may be the last Olympics for both Victor and Ivan but we will continue with our policy of recruiting foreigners.
“We need athletes who can work full time to achieve our objectives to represent the nation at the Olympics and in all the major championships in the world. We have a good programme in place and pretty confident of moving forward.”
Remarenco won the World Cup in Almaty in 2011 for Moldova and was Romanian champion in 2012 before joining Toma and Scvortov in the UAE squad in 2013. He reached World Championships bronze in 2014 U100kg.
“Ivan had to overcome a few niggling injuries but he’s done pretty well to win a ticket to Tokyo,” Al Tamimi said. “He was placed fifth in the Asia-Oceanic and has arrived in Tokyo fresh and confident. Ivan believes his in the best shape. So fingers crossed.”
Scvortov will be in action on Monday and Remarenco takes to the mat on Thursday.
Bin Futtais will be hoping to improve on his 29th spot in the men’s skeet at Rio. He will take that experience forward when he will be the first UAE team member to go into action on Sunday and Monday.