Jim Nieto is a committed judo teacher, a longtime instructor at the local YMCA and an advocate for gender equality in sports.

Recently, though, he’s been exploring a new possible title: Olympic coach.

Nieto recently returned to Santa Monica from Rio de Janeiro, where he toured the new athletic facilities and experienced the city’s gridlock firsthand.

“Traffic was unbelievably slow because of the construction,” Nieto said of his visit to the 2016 Olympic Games host city. “They have the craziest drivers. Nobody uses a turn signal, including the buses. Imagine having a bus cut you off. You’re thinking, ‘Why isn’t anybody honking?’ But they don’t honk. They’re used to it.”

Nieto’s trip to Brazil had everything to do with Joud Fahmy. A 22-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia who has been in Santa Monica for more than a year, Fahmy, the daughter of a diplomat, is training with Nieto for a shot to compete in the Olympics in judo as a representative of her home country.

It’s why the Saudi Arabia Olympic Committee paid for Nieto to travel to Brazil and familiarize himself with the judo venue and the various facilities.

Nieto’s trip was the latest indication that Fahmy, despite her relative lack of experience in the sport, has a real chance to participate in the upcoming Olympics.

According to Nieto, Fahmy is not officially qualified as an athlete because she has not placed at an international tournament. He said there’s a small possibility that she might not be able to compete.

But, Nieto said, countries with historically small Olympic contingents are sometimes able to enroll “wild-card” entrants in certain sports.

“They wanted to bring me all the way to Rio, and they paid for my trip,” he said. “It’s not set in stone yet. But it sounds good.”

There’s hope for Fahmy embedded in the 2012 Olympics, when Saudi Arabia was represented by a woman for the first time in the history of the Games. And the shortage of Saudi women competing in judo means Fahmy might have a chance to do what Wojdan Shaherkani did in London three years ago.

Fahmy, a Santa Monica College student who has been training in judo for less than a year, is busy gaining experience. In December she took first place in her division at the Judo Winter Nationals, an event in Los Angeles featuring more than 700 total competitors. In February she participated in the Taishi Judo Club’s annual tournament at Cerritos College. And earlier this month she took third place in her division at the National Collegiate Judo Association championships at San Jose State University.

Fahmy is working hard on her conditioning and learning how to defend against armbars, Nieto said. She now has a personal trainer to build on her skills and stamina.

During the collegiate championships, Fahmy rolled through her opponents to rebound from a subpar showing in her first match.

“She’s still a beginner, but she’s doing extremely well,” Nieto said.