IJF Abu Dhabi Grand Slam set for record turnout as judokas bid to keep Olympic dreams alive

Trophies and world ranking points up for grabs at the three-day event at Mubadala Arena

Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation. Courtesy UAEWJF
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The IJF Abu Dhabi Year of Tolerance Grand Slam will welcome a record number of entries as more than 600 judokas compete to boost their Olympic hopes for Tokyo 2020.

The penultimate Grand Slam of the season, taking place at the Mubadala Arena and starting on Thursday, has attracted 603 judokas from 104 countries competing for vital world ranking points that will go towards qualifying for next summer’s Olympic Games.

"As organisers of the event, we are overwhelmed of the entries that have far exceeded our expectations," Nasser Al Tamimi, general secretary of the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation, told The National.

“The number of countries and judokas participating in the Abu Dhabi event is only second behind the World Championships and Masters. It’s a record for any Grand Slam in the world.”

The host nation has six judokas entered in the Grand Slam, but they are pinning their medal hopes on the Moldovan-born pair Victor Scvortov and Ivan Remarenco.

Scvortov, a bronze medallist at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, competes in the 73-kilogram while Remarenco fights at 100kg. They were both at 2016 Rio Olympics in which Sergiu Toma claimed a historic judo bronze for the UAE.

Toma, 32, announced his retirement earlier in the month, and Al Tamimi said the UAE federation were keen to employ him as a trainer after he completes a coaching course.

“Sergiu was suffering from a back injury for a long time and decided it was time to quit from international competitions,” Al Tamimi said.

“He did a great job for us and put UAE judo on the world map by winning several medals in the Grand Slam and Gran Prix events, and winning the bronze in Rio.”

Scvortov and Remarenco, both 31, have already qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics and flew out from their training base in Tokyo for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.

“They want to reach to their best before the Olympics and Abu Dhabi will serve as a good test for them,” Al Tamimi said.

Also completing for the UAE are 18-year-olds Ahmed Al Naqbi (60kg) and Ahmed Al Hosani (66kg), 20-year-old Khalifa Al Hosani (73kg) and 19-year-old Ali Al Darmaki (100kg).

“They have prepared well and that includes overseas camps in Honk Kong and Tunis,” Al Tamimi said. “They are youngsters we are grooming for the future. They have done well in the junior and cadet international competitions and they can take the home Grand Slam as an experience.”

Each day of the three-day event begins with the preliminaries at 10am, with the final blocks starting from 5pm each day. There are seven weight categories for both men and women.