The UAE has finally claimed its second Olympic medal after Sergiu Toma took bronze in judo at the Rio Games on Tuesday.
The judoka was a winner over Italy’s Matteo Marconcini by Ippon to be placed third in the -81kg weight class at the Carioca Arena 2.
Toma joins Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher, who won gold in Athens in 2004, as the only Emiratis to make the podium at an Olympic Games.
To clinch the bronze, Toma defeated his Italian rival having already lost narrowly in the semi-finals to Russia’s Khasan Khalmurzaev in an identical fashion. Khalmurzaev went on to win the gold. America’s Travis Sevens took the silver.
Toma, 29, is one of three Moldovan-born UAE judokas competing in Rio, with Victor Scvortov exiting the -78kg weight class at the last-16 stage on Monday and Ivan Remarenco still to contest the -100kg on Thursday.
“I’m very proud to represent the UAE and win the medal for them,” Toma said. “I want to thank all the people in Moldova and the Emirates for helping me with my career. I dedicate this to them and to my mentor.”
Asked if he would rather win it for Moldova or the UAE, Toma said: “For sure, the UAE.”
Toma had earlier defeated Germany’s Sven Maresch, by way of a disqualification, and then triumphed against home hope Victor Penalber and Japan’s Takanori Nagase, the reigning world champion.
Taking part in his third Olympics, Toma was eliminated in the second round at Beijing in 2008 and beaten in the third round at London four years later. He has tasted success in elite international competition before, though, winning silver at the 2011 European Championships and bronze at the World Championships that same year.
Toma is ranked ninth in the world at -81kg, a hugely competitive weight class, and was therefore rated as the UAE’s best medal hope in judo. He is one of 13 athletes representing the UAE in Rio this month.
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