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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Faisal Al Ketbi: Jiu-jitsu competition at Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games my 'biggest challenge'

The Emirati leads a jiu-jitsu squad of 23 - 16 men, seven women - at the tournament in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, with the action kicking off on Monday

UAE's Faisal Al Ketbi leads his country's medal hopes at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan. Reem Mohammed / The National
UAE's Faisal Al Ketbi leads his country's medal hopes at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Turkmenistan. Reem Mohammed / The National

Faisal Al Ketbi has described the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat this week as his "biggest challenge" this year, one that he plans to use to help fine tune his preparations for the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.

The Emirati leads a jiu-jitsu squad of 23 - 16 men, seven women - at the tournament in Turkmenistan, with the action kicking off on Monday.

“After Ashgabat is the Asian Games in 11 months in Jakarta,” Al Ketbi said. “So, Ashgabat is a dress rehearsal for the 2018 Asian Games, which for me, is one of the most prestigious medals to have.”

Jiu-jitsu will make its debut at the Asian Games, held in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia, from August 18 to September 2 next year.

“Both our federation [UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation] and the Jiu-Jitsu Asian Union has worked very hard to get the sport on the continent’s biggest sporting stage,” Al Ketbi said.

“All my focus will be only on the Asian Games after Ashgabat. It’s not only for me, but for all my teammates as well, to cement their positions in the national team with good performances.”

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Al Ketbi is the kingpin of Emirati jiu-jitsu, its highest ranked fighter and by far its most decorated. Among his growing medal collection he recently added gold and silver from the World Games in Poland and the Asian Championship in Vietnam earlier this year.

“The competitions in Thailand and Vietnam served as a good lead-up on our preparation for Ashgabat,” Al Ketbi said.

“After that, we had a 25-day camp in Brazil where we were able to work on our mistakes. We trained there thrice a day and took part in three small competitions.

“There we learned every day on one thing or another. It wasn’t just on improving on the skills, and both physical and mental strengths, but the way of life of the professional jiu-jitsu fighters in Brazil.”

Al Ketbi believes the team is in "excellent" shape despite a busy start to the season.

“We haven’t had a break,” he said. “We have been either training or taking part in competition since the Ramadan month in June.

“As the national team we were engaged in three different competitions over three months in Thailand, Poland and Vietnam.

“Ashgabat is another experience for me and my team. We hope to win as many medals as possible and make the UAE’s presence felt at the Games, particularly in jiu-jitsu."

Al Ketbi said the pride in seeing the UAE flag raised on foreign soil and remaining the top-ranked national fighter was his main motivation.

“I love my country, I love jiu-jitsu and I want to keep going for as long as possible,” he said.

“The is pressure always there when you are holding that position. This is not only for me but for every athlete in every discipline. That’s another way to keep you on your toes.

“For me, Ashgabat is the biggest challenge for 2017 and Jakarta for 2018.”

Following the conclusion of the Asian Indoor Games next up for Al Ketbi will be the jiu-jitsu world championship in Colombia in November, followed by the Abu Dhabi World Professional Championship on home soil next April.

“All these will be part of my preparation for Jakarta,” Al Ketbi said. “No other competitions matter to me anymore until the Asian Games.

“As a team we hope we can make a good impact at Ashgabat. I really do, because of the amount of preparation over the last three months. Like me, my team is also hungry for success.”