DUBAI // Thirteen-year-old Khalifa al Abbar, the UAE's very own karate kid, is on top of the world after a stunning gold medal-winning performance in a top international competition. The Emirati scored a remarkable victory at the Italian Open International Championship and declared by telephone from Milan: "I am now the best in the world in my category." Khalifa beat four Italians and an American on his way to collecting the gold medal in the Under 14 category at the annual Italian Golden League event.
"I did not expect to win because the competition here is very strong; it is probably stronger than the World Championships," said Khalifa, who finished fourth in the tournament last year. "I expected maybe third or fourth, but never gold. The victory here makes me want to win more and more medals." The annual tournament regularly attracts one of the strongest international fields in the sport. Karate is not an Olympic sport and the World Championships are only open to those aged over 14, so the Golden League event is regarded as the highest-profile competition for competitors under the age of 14.
"I feel very happy," said Khalifa. "We trained well and we got the medal we deserved. This is the best win of my career." This weekend's tournament involved more than 2,000 practitioners from 49 countries. Khalifa said he will now take a three-month break from competing to improve his fitness and muscle mass and ensure he can "stay on the top of the international podium". Adnan al Abbar, Khalifa's father, said his son's victory was a dream come true.
"We are on top of the world," he said. "Tears are coming to my eyes as I am telling you this, but as a father and to watch your son become the best in the world is something very special." firstname.lastname@example.org