x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Emirati Al Ketbi emerges victorious

Lisbon up next for fighter who is still not fully recovered from back and shoulder injuries.

Ahmed Suhail bin Huwaiden Al Ketbi, centre. Al Ittihad
Ahmed Suhail bin Huwaiden Al Ketbi, centre. Al Ittihad

Abu Dhabi // As far as training for the European Championships, to be held in the coastal Portuguese capital of Lisbon, the 2013 Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Super Cup is not the worst way to go.

For a start, it is being staged, for the first time, at Al Khubeiran Gardens on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, in a new venue built expressly for this purpose.

But by attracting fighters from around the world — from 34 different countries across all belt and weight categories — it has proved near ideal preparation for Ahmed Suhail bin Huwaiden Al Ketbi in particular. A large Russian contingent has been especially tough and successful, their backgrounds in wrestling and judo equipping them well here.

Al Ketbi is one of the best fighters in the country, a status reconfirmed at the Super Cup where he picked up three gold medals and a silver.

In January he goes to Lisbon to take part in the European Championships where he already has an impressive track record: in 2012 he won gold in his weight category for blue belt masters, and in 2013 a silver medal in the purple belt category to which he had only been promoted four months previous.

Yesterday he beat the veteran UAE fighter Mohammad Nasser Al Messabi in a gripping, debilitating encounter to win his third gold, in the Masters open weight category purple belt (that added to his two earlier wins in 80kgs and 82kgs) that formed the centrepiece of the day.

“Always my first fight is my worst fight,” he said. “You’re nervous, you try to focus hard so there are no fancy moves initially. But as soon as I finish that first fight, then I play for fun where, like this one, I can apply different techniques.”

With just 30 seconds to go, Al Ketbi was leading 8-6, before he managed to make his opponent submit, with a choke from the back. Al Messabi has long been a mentor of sorts for Al Ketbi; he is returning as a fighter after a long time away from the sport with a knee injury and kept pace with his younger opponent for much of the contest.

Al Ketbi’s form is more impressive given that he is still hampered by an injury to his back and shoulder which has yet to fully heal.

“I’ve recovered from it but am not as happy with my performance as I usually am,” he said. “I am not even training properly at the moment as my movement is limited. But I am depending on my technique mostly.”

The plan now is to participate in further events in the UAE, but also squeeze in some rest before he starts training in earnest for Lisbon.

“I need to get back into training for that, but I also need to take rest, cure my injuries and get ready for it,” he said. “That is one of the toughest tournaments going. This year I got silver within just four months of promotion from blue to purple belt. I’m aiming this time for another gold.”

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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