Nasser Al Tamimi believes the UAE judokas remain on track for the Paris 2024 Olympics after falling short in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam at the Mubadala Arena at the weekend.
All nine judokas in the host team’s roster, including three professionals, failed to go beyond round one in the three-day competition that drew entries from 65 countries for the 14 gold medals for men and women that were on offer.
“We could have done better in a home championship but still we can take a lot of positives from the competition, particularly the experience gained by the Emirati judokas,” Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation, told The National.
“At this level, there is little margin for error. Our professionals committed little mistakes and that cost them the fights. However, they have many qualifying events coming up and we are confident for them to make the cut.”
Russian-born Aram Grigorian (90kg) and Dzafar Kostoev (100kg), and Georgia-born Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg) were the three professionals in action along with six Emiratis.
The UAE first made their Olympic Games appearance in judo at Beijing 2008 and continued the trend at London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
The highlight for the Games campaign was the bronze won by Moldovan-born Sergiu Toma at Rio for only the second Olympic medal for the UAE after Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher’s gold in double trap shooting at Athens 2004.
The UAE have five professional judokas recruited for the next two Games – Paris and Los Angeles 2028.
Al Tamimi insisted it was a strategy they adopted after the London Games and will continue with this programme until they have Emirati judokas ready for the Olympic level.
“We need to have our presence in judo at every Olympics until we have our own [athletes] at this level,” he said.
“The qualification for the Games began in May and there are many qualifying competitions for our professionals to achieve enough ranking points for Paris."
The other two professionals who didn’t participate in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix are Russian-born Magomedomar Magomedomorov (+100kg), and Georgian-born Guram Dzavashvili (66kg).
Magomedomorov, 21, won two golds at the Cluj-Napoca European Open in July and the fifth Islamic Solidarity Games, and a bronze in between at the Grand Slam Hungary.
“He’s the youngest of the five and is currently ranked 26th in the world in his weight division,” Al Tamimi said of Magomedomorov.
“Tatalashvili and Kostoev are in the top 40 in their respective weights. Grigorian is ranked 57 and Dzavashvili is 111. All of our professionals have the potential to move forward and earn enough ranking points for Paris. They have done pretty well to finish on points in the previous competitions they took part in.”
Meanwhile, Georgia was declared first overall by virtue of having a seventh-place finish after they were tied with France on two golds, a silver and a bronze each from the 14 finals.
China, with two golds on the final day, both in the women’s division, and a bronze won earlier finished third ahead of Italy (1g, 2s and 3b), Spain (1-2-1), Britain (1-1-1) and Canada (1-0-1). Switzerland, Greece, Korea and the Czech Republic won a gold each.