Abu Dhabi: Judoka Sergiu Toma claimed the UAE's second-ever Olympic medal after beating Italian Matteo Marconcini in the 81kg bronze medal match in Rio.
Toma picked himself up from losing his semi-final to Russian Khasan Khalmurzaev in sudden death to win by ippon in the fight for third place.
He becomes the UAE's second Olympic medallist after Shaikh Ahmad Bin Hasher Al Maktoum’s gold medal performance in the double trap shooting at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Earlier, Toma defeated Japan’s Takanori Nagase to enter the semi-finals and put himself in line for a medal.
Toma showed tremendous spirit and character in all his bouts to set up the semi-final clash with Khalmurzaev.
Toma was clearly in the zone all through the day and his previous bouts were devoid of any expressions. The pumped fist, after beating Nagase was his only sign of accomplishment; a testimony of his 12-year relentless pursuit for glory.
Toma, the Moldovan born-Emirati judoka, was in his third Olympics and perhaps his last. He competed in the same category at the 2012 London Olympics and after defeating Czech Jaromír Musil in the second round, was eliminated by Takahiro Nakai of Japan in the third round. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he competed in the men’s lightweight (-73kg), losing in the first round to Georgia’s David Kevkhishvili.
Soon after his quarters win, Toma made a muted walk to the change room but the confidence in his stride clearly showed that he has gold in his mind.
Toma, like his earlier rounds, was on the offensive straight away. However, after two minutes of duel none had disturbed the scorer but then he got Nagase to trip to pocket a crucial point. Thereafter, he held on to that slender lead till the end to seal his maiden semis berth.
In the round of 16, there was plenty of support for home judoka Victor Penalber but that did not stop Toma from showing his dominance. He, who won the round of 32 defeating Germany’s Sven Maresch by disqualification (penalties), was all over his opponent right from the start. He took an early 10-0 lead with a quick sweep to pile on the pressure over Penalber, who made it to the round of 16 getting the better of Marlon August of Mozambique.
Egged on by the home crowd, Penalber showed some spirit and was rewarded with a point but Toma showed his guile again to widen the lead to 11-1. He then again got Penalber off his feet to seal the win comprehensively by Yuko.
Aisha Al Baloushi figuring in her maiden Olympics finished seventh in the women’s 58kg weightlifting competition.
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