Notable competitors at event, meant for Under 18s, include national team member Mahra Al Hanaei and Alyaa Al Dhahnani
Emirati female fighters have a field day at Jiu-Jitsu Festival in Abu Dhabi
Mahra Al Hanaei had the perfect warm-up for Sunday’s Abu Dhabi World Youth Jiu-Jitsu Championship when she won a gold medal at the Jiu-Jitsu Festival’s Under 18 competition for Emirati girls.
For a fighter of Mahra's calibre, emerging victorious in the juvenile blue belt 67-kilogram division appeared straightforward. After all, she is a member of the UAE national women’s team.
She racked up four fights by submission before beating Asma Al Hosani in the final by a solitary advantage point on Day 3 of the festival, which drew more than 800 Emirati girls to Mubadala Arena on Wednesday.
Mahra, 16, said she never let her guard down in any of her fights because "you never know what to expect in this kind of competitions".
The Grade 11 pupil from Maryam bint Sultan School in Al Ain also said it was "nice" to go into Sunday's competition with "a good warm-up event".
“With four days to go, it was a good trial ahead of the World Youths," she said. "Fortunately, I didn’t have to go through a hard time to win these fights.
“The competition at the World Youths is on a different level, but I think I have enough experience to handle what may come.”
Mahra has had a successful season, winning four gold medals at the Grand Slams of Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Abu Dhabi and London. She also reached the final of the Jiu-Jitsu International Federation’s (JJIF) World Championship for Aspirants and Juniors in Abu Dhabi in March.
However, she remains grounded.
“I still don’t know the kind of opposition that will arrive for the World Youths, but I would guess some of those who came for the JJIF’s Worlds to return,” she said. “That’s very obvious because of a world event. [But] I feel I’m in better shape than before, and looking forward to a better result.”
Amith Passela at Jiu-Jitsu Festival
Meanwhile, Alyaa Al Dhahnani overcame Reem Al Mansoori by submission to claim gold in the 63kg blue belt category.
“We are friends and have met several times before,” Alyaa said. “I have won a few times and she has won a few times. I was the lucky one this time. I hope we meet again in the World Youths.
“Like most of the girls who will take part in the World Youths, this competition was also a good trial for us.”
Reem is confident the Emirati girls will be able to match those arriving for the World Youths from overseas.
“If you see, the Emirati girls are improving all the time,” she said. “For instance, if we take the fights between me and Alyaa, we never know who will win the next time we meet.
“It’s the same with the others. Then there are those who have caught up with the top level girls. As the host nation, we also have the numbers, and as a nation, we want to win as many medals as possible.”