Three young siblings from Dubai are lighting up the European taekwondo scene this summer, claiming an impressive clutch of six gold medals, one silver and one bronze in just three tournaments. The popularity of martial arts is unmistakably on the rise in the UAE, with jiu jitsu being introduced into schools in Abu Dhabi and the world authorities of the Ultimate Fighting Championship looking at the capital as a possible venue for their form of competition. taekwondo is no exception.
Osama Saqr, 14, his younger brother Osayd, 12, and sister Rahaf, nine, are already reaching remarkable levels for their age. Each is a black belt, with the two brothers both at 2nd Dan level and Rahaf already a 1st Dan. Collectively they are on the hunt for gold medals at the Olympics, and although they will not be competing in London at the 2012 Olympics, they plan to feature highly during the next staging.
Representing the UAE National Karate Centre, where they train three days a week in Sharjah, the Saqr trio have made their presence known in Europe this summer. Adding to a combined two-year tally of 30 medals, the youngsters have picked up further accolades across Germany in the past few weeks. Each claimed gold in their weight group at the 2009 Stuttgart Open last month. From there they moved to South Germany to compete in the Bodensee International Cup and the Black Tiger International Cup.
Osayd dispatched German international Timo Notfahrt 4-2 to seal gold in the Cadets 33kg division at the Bodensee Cup, while Rahaf was denied gold, settling for silver following two disallowed knockouts. She made up for that disappointment at the Black Tiger International Cup, beating Italian rival Larissa Sabatini for the second time this summer in the girls' 30kg final, battling to a 12-6 triumph. Osayd completed his hat-trick of gold medals with a win at the Black Tiger Cup, while older brother Osama took bronze.
"They are superior for their age," said Master Zayed Hammah, who coaches the three youngsters. "According to their age they are doing very well. They are great students and should have a great future ahead of them." Hammah also coaches the UAE national taekwondo team, including Sheikha Maitha Bint Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the daughter of the ruler of Dubai. Sheikha Maitha's presence at the 2008 Beijing Olympics has boosted the profile of the sport in the UAE, encouraging more Emirati women to take up martial arts.
"Taekwondo is new for girls in the UAE, but when Sheikha Maitha started competing internationally it attracted more local girls to try it," explained Hammah. "Rahaf has a great talent. She is very fast, especially with her kicking. In her last match she won with a knockout axe kick, which is amazing for a girl of her age. "Osama is changing from youth to cadet level, which is hard, but he is a very fine fighter. There is a lot to come from him. Watching Osayd is like watching a movie, he likes to think he is Bruce Lee. The way he reacts, his technique, it is unbelievable."
The trio will now turn their attention to the 10th International Adidas Cup due to be held in Herzogenaurach, Germany from October 3 this year. Their father, Jihad Sakr, hopes the youngsters can inspire more children to take up martial art form. "In the UAE it is very limited, there are not so many players here," said Sakr. "We take them to Europe to compete at a better level. It would be great if they could influence more children to do taekwondo. It is a safe sport and they love it."