- Title: JERUSALEM: OLYMPICS/ JUDO Palestinian Judoka prepares for London Olympics
- Date: 9th July 2012
- Summary: PEOPLE WALKING PAST SHOP
- Embargoed: 24th July 2012 13:00
- Location: Jerusalem
- Country: Israel
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA50OQKR34B9L9EQORS8SXS9WTT
- Story Text: Palestinian Olympic judo competitor Maher Abu Rmeileh trains in Jerusalem's old city ahead of the London games.
When Maher Abu Rmeileh takes his bow on the judo mat at the London 2012 games, he will become the first Palestinian to compete at an Olympic Games on merit.
In the past, Palestinian swimmers and track athletes have made it into the Olympics via the International Olympic Committee's solidarity programme for fledgling nations.
But in June, the 28-year-old judoka ensured his participation in the Olympic competition at a qualifying event in Japan.
"I am proud that I am the first Palestinian who is qualified for the London Olympics 2012, and not by getting a scholarship or a white card which they give for power games and swimming. Of course, I feel very, very happy because this was my dream and finally I fulfilled it. I am sure that every athlete dreams of competing at the Olympics by qualifying and not with the help of a white card invitation," Abu Rmeileh said recently while training in Jerusalem.
His home base is a small gym which also serves as a banqueting hall at the al-Quds Sports Club, in a cramped alleyway in Arab East Jerusalem. With only basic facilities, the gym has no changing rooms or showers, meaning athletes have to hide behind a stage curtain to get changed.
Despite the difficulties, Abu Rmeileh says he was able to succeed thanks to his family.
"Our parents and grandparents were athletes and they loved sport. Most of the Abu Rmeileh family is into sport. We have so many athletes in the family, such as my uncles, my brothers and father. Now we are at a high level in the country, and if people hear the name Abu Rmeileh, they say 'yes, they are very capable athletes and can compete and can reach an Olympic level'," he said.
Abu Rmeileh's father was his first coach and started training him at the age of seven. Now, he has the support of his wife, Kifah.
"I am so happy that my husband is travelling (to the London Olympics). I always encourage him and I always will," she said at the family home in Jerusalem, where Abu Rmeileh is also trying to instill a love of sports into his two sons.
As the Games draw near, Abu Rmeileh has increased his training regimen to two hours in the morning and two in the evening. But while most of his competitors have more intensive training schedules, the 28-year-old has a day job, earning a living by working at his father's shop in Jerusalem's old city.
"The training is part of my life. I open the shop here in the morning and after I close the shop, at around five or six o'clock, I go to train in judo. I am trying to organise between training and my working life in a good way," he said.
The judoka will attend the Olympics along with four other Palestinians: Gaza runner Bahaa al-Farra; Cairo-based swimmer Ahmed Jabreel -- and two West Bank women: swimmer Sabeen Kharyoon from Bethlehem; and runner Worood Maslaha from Nablus.
Abu Rmeileh will carry the Palestinian flag at the London Olympics opening ceremony on July 27.
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