Dubai: Ivan Remarenco and Victor Scvortov are still pounding the mats in the gym despite the Tokyo Olympics having been postponed until next summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. The two judokas who are the only UAE athletes to have qualified to take part in the Games, which were due to begin in July.
Despite the set-back thanks to COVID-19, the duo say there will be no let-up in their preparations as they now look to next summer. “The show must go on and we have to continue with our preparations towards the Olympics in future,” Scvortov told Gulf News in an interview.
It was judo which gave the UAE their second Olympics medal when the Moldova-born Sergiu Toma won a bronze for his adopted country in Rio Olympics four years back. Shaikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum had earlier won gold in double trap shooting for the UAE in Athens 2004.
Both Remarenco and Scvortov qualified are judokas, originally hailing from the landlocked Eastern European nation of Moldova, after making it through the various stages of qualifying and earning the right to represent their adopted nation UAE at the Games that may now be held only in 2021.
The duo began their preparations for Tokyo immediately after the conclusion of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in Brazil. “Four years is a long time and we have really got into shape preparing for a memorable Olympic Games in Tokyo. Now, we still have a Plan B in place as we will continue with our training programme,” he added.
A few days shy of his 32nd birthday on March 30, Scvortov originally represented his birth nation at international events. But in 2013, he moved to the UAE along with two other Moldovan judokas – Remarenco and Toma. Scvortov competed at the last Games in Rio de Janeiro in the men’s 73 kg where he was eliminated in the third round by Japan’s Shohei Ono, who went on to win the gold medal.
“I lost to one of the greats [Ono] in the Lightweight division. That only gave me more resolve to try and be better in my sport. With that one thought in mind, we sat down with the coach and the head of the UAE Judo Federation (Nasser Al Tamimi) immediately after the Olympic Games in Brazil. At this meeting, we chalked out a training and competition programme with the next few years in mind,” Scvortov said.
Born on August 7, 1988, Remarenco competed for his native Moldova in the -90 kg category at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Eventually, he moved up in weight category to -100 kg. After shifting allegiance to the UAE along with the other judokas in 2013, Remarenco went on to win a bronze medal for his adopted country at the 2014 World Judo Championships held at the Traktor Ice Arena in Chelyabinsk in Russia.
His second main competition under the UAE banner was the 2016 where he lost in the second round against Algeria’s Lyes Bouyacoub. But since that disappointing finish, he picked up a silver medal at the Grand Prix of Tblisi, Georgia (March 2014) followed by a couple of bronze medals at the European Open in Oberwart, Austria (February 2014) and the World Championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia (August 2014).
“I believe I have to be ready for a real long journey. This is an Olympic Games that I am preparing for, where every single day of my work brings me results. I stick to hard work, and I feel I am in an excellent physical shape. I train for the sheer pleasure of being on the mat in yet another Olympics,” Remarenco said.
“I am not worried about the postponement as I believe we have a great team headed by our leaders, who along with our coach and other training staff, already have a Plan B in place. Till then, my dream of winning an Olympic medal will remain as that will be the best result of my long-term hard work,” he added.
Since Rio 2016, Scvortov too has been consistent with his results in the men’s 73 kg category with a haul of three silver and four bronze medals at various competitions around the world. He started off with a bronze at the Grand Slam of Abu Dhabi in October 2016, followed by three more bronze medals at the 18th Asian Games Jakarta (August 2018), Tashkent Grand Prix (November 2018) and the Asian-Pacific Championships (April 2019).
His three silver medals came at The Hague Grand Prix (November 2017), the Hothot Championships in Inner Mongolia, China (May 2019) and the Montreal Grand Prix in Canada (July 2019). Scvortov’s latest participation was at the Qingdao Masters in China in mid-December last year where he got a fifth place.
Seeded No.4, the UAE judoka was expected to participate at the Paris Grand Slam scheduled for the first half of February, and is now waiting for word on his next major competition at the Baku Grand Slam 2020, to be held in Azerbaijan on May 8. “Nothing is certain at the moment, but we have to continue striving towards the best we can be physically and mentally in the lead up to the Olympic Games,” he related.
“My workouts are divided into several types. We have the physical workout, the functional workout, the psychological workout and then the technical that constitutes mainly tatami work,” Scvortov added.
“After the threat of COVID-19 was declared all over the world, we had to change and review our preparations and planning for the Olympics. Some of our build-up competitions and trips to international training camps have been cancelled due to the self-quarantine. But we have not wasted any time as we have prepared an individual programme so that we can remain steady towards our goal in Tokyo, whenever it comes,” he stressed.
Remarenco had a bigger participation list this year starting with the Paris Grand Slam (February 8), Dusseldorf Grand Slam (February 21) and the now postponed Asian-Oceania Championships (April 17) and the Baku Grand Slam 2020 (May 8). “I will do my best to continue what I have been doing since the past few years. As an athlete, I am committed to a lifestyle that involves hard training while always keeping my goal in front of me,” Remarenco said.
“Nothing will change for me even though the Olympic Games have been postponed. As I said earlier, we have a Plan B in place and I will stick to what I am supposed to do. I will continue training even harder and fulfill my goal of bringing home a medal from Tokyo,” he promised.
Name: Victor Scvortov
Date of birth: March 30, 1988
Born: In Moldova
Joined UAE: in 2013
2016 Rio Olympics: Lost in Round Three to Shohei Ono of Japan
Category: Men’s 73 kg
Goal: To win a medal at Tokyo Olympic Games
Name: Ivan Remarenco
Date of birth: August 7, 1988
Born: Goleni, Moldova
Joined UAE: in 2013
2016 Rio Olympics: Lost in Round Two to Lyes Bouyacoub of Algeria
Category: -100 kg
Goal: Hard work will hand me Olympic medal in Tokyo